Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
The night sky is flat out black- no stars, no moon. But the snow seems to give off it's own light and as we walk along the driveway (actually I walk, the puppy careens this way and that with her nose to the ground) I can see across the fields to where the snow melts into the far off woods. The night breezes are quiet right now but I can hear coyotes baying in the distance. There is an entire mark of the horizon that has no light visible; no porch lights blinking between the trees; no street lights, no sign of man. That's pretty amazing since there are signs of people everywhere. But living here, in the country, in the Montana country, there are large swatches of area where there is no sign of man. No houses, no lights, no traffic noises, just trees and creeks and animals and mountains and snow. I can't see any of these things right now, it's too dark. I just know they are out there. I can feel the emptiness of man-made things and the fullness of nature and it's good.
Friday, December 24, 2010
The kids are snuggled into their sleeping bags on the downstairs den floor. The Christmas tree is decorated upstairs in the family room, waiting for Santa to arrive and bless these "well deserving kids" (they think) with "copious presents" (they hope). They're keeping with the tradition I had with my brothers and sisters when I was growing up.......all sleeping in the same room on Christmas Eve night.
I'd like to say it's because they all want to be together during this very wonderful time. But the reality is that they don't trust each other. The whole family is supposed to see the Christmas tree and all the Christmas bounty at the same time on Christmas morning (another family tradition is to have some of the presents wrapped and some just laying out because Santa doesn't wrap presents- he just doesn't have the time). The children are to wait until a half way normal hour (the translates to some time after 6 am) and come into our bedroom to wake the mountain boy and me. Then everyone is to causally saunter down the hallway (at a break neck speed) to the family room where all can experience the shock and awe of Christmas at the same time.......Everyone. Together. At the same time.
But the kids don't trust each other.
Each one is afraid that the other will sneak up and tippy-toe up to the living room to see the cornucopia of gifts and therefore "know" before the rest ("know" as in "I-know-what-you-got-before-you-know-what-you-got"). So they sleep in the same room on Christmas Eve: trying not to get caught sleeping, watching each other with tired, blood-shot eyes, straining to hear a stray tippy-toe.
Keeping each other honest.
What else are families for?
Thursday, December 23, 2010
"Oh", cluck, cluck, cluck, " thank you but, no. You first".
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
This is the road to the "most-beautiful-Christmas-tree-in-the-World". The tree is out there waiting for us. We just have to find it. The-most-beautiful-tree-in-the-world presents itself after we have looked over ever square inch of about 123 acres of state owned woods. (Every. Square. Inch.) Many trees are considered but only one has the perfect shape, height and attitude.
Everyone gets to have their opinion. All get their choice considered. But in the end, only one is chosen as "the most-beautiful". This year took a little longer than usual. Mostly because of the snow. We were trudging in snow up past knees and thighs (and I'm pretty tall for a girl). We almost lost several kids in the process.
("Randy lay there like a slug. It was his only defense". Name that movie.)
Finally, we got that beauty to the car.
And here we are---- kids, dog, parents and a tree with 'tude---- and we didn't even have to drive home backwards !
Thank goodness! I didn't feel like hyperventilating this time.
Monday, December 20, 2010
So stay tuned.
If I can take a picture of the beautiful eclipsed moon, I'll do it.
But we all know the limits of my amazing picture taking skills.
The full story tomorrow. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Tuesday- the night after the monumental lunar eclipse on the very eve of the winter solstice: I got up twice in the night and no heavenly views. It was just too cloudy. So I guess we have to wait another 453 years before the full moon is eclipsed on the winter solstice. Too bad the event wasn't tonight. It's cold and clear outside. 7 degrees above zero and still as a breath. When we lived in the city, you could hear the electrical lines popping and cracking on really cold nights like tonight. Kind of a weird,eerie sound.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
My mountain boy husband is up there. Right now. He is up on the mountain in the clinic taking care of sick and hurt people. (He is picking up 2 extra shifts at the ski clinic while home from his regular job in AK.) He has a stethoscope around his neck and a white coat pulled over his rag wool sweater and his blue jeans. If I squint my eyes I can see him waving to me.
He'll be home in about 3 hours then our family will have supper, share some home made eggnog and watch "Hoosiers" for the 153th time (it's not a Christmas movie but we are a BIG sports family so it's kinda like watching "White Christmas" but with sweaty high school boys playing basketball. Well, OK. It's not like "White Christmas" at all. But the kids like it and it is Christmas). Then we will turn off the lights, tuck the kids into bed and snuggle down for a long winters nap. I can't wait.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
All that aside- baking bread is fun, pretty easy.......and cheap.....(a loaf of bread costs me 18 cents to bake at home) and there is NOTHING better than the smell of freshly baking bread.
Monday, December 13, 2010
The morning temperatures haven't seen above freezing for almost a month. I guess winter is here in earnest. While the puppy is out making her rounds, I poke my head into the chicken coop. The birds aren't up yet and I can see only fluffed up mounds of different colored feathers in a line across the rafters of the coop all snuggled together. It'll be dark for several more hours so I lay down some chicken mash mixed with a little cracked corn for later. The birds seem to appreciate food right when waking to help warm their bodies after a cold night. The rabbits are still snoozing in their individual cages. I'm not too worried about them. They can tolerate very cold temperatures without much complaint. I'll feed and water them a little later.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
The red Coleman-type cooler in the top of the picture is filled with about #100 of Russet potatoes. The drain spout at the bottom is open and the lid is ajar to allow air flow and to (hopefully) keep the potatoes fresh until spring (or until we eat them all). What you can't see is that there is a bin beyond the potatoes that has about #25 carrots stored in it. We usually go through the carrots before they get soft or
sprout little roots. Otherwise I would bury the carrots in sand to keep them safe. There's also a couple of #25 boxes of organic apples. We usually get our apples from a friend's tree but this summer was so cool and wet that the local apple production was really poor and I had to buy fruit this year.
There's also a bin of storage onions under the steps and all that green stuff flowing out of the bucket are leeks and some smallish onions that I use for the greens. These guys will be used up in the next couple of weeks as the greens won't last too long in storage.
There are 14 heads of both green and purple cabbage that should be fine in the coolness of the garage until we eat them. If they start to turn, I can cut them up into wedges and freeze them in large gallon sized zip-lock baggies. Of course you can't use them raw but they taste great cooked with onions and ham after being frozen.
The red potatoes are all from our garden in town. We have been using the same potatoes for years, saving the largest from the pile of the harvested crop to be used again for the next springs garden. A friend asked me what kind of reds we used and I couldn't even tell her the name. A long time gardener gave me the first of these potatoes to grow when we moved to Montana and he has since passed. So the actual name of these great, successful potatoes is a mystery. Maybe we should just name them after our friend. What a nice tribute that would be.
We harvested all the extra meat rabbits, chickens and turkeys. Our freezer looks like this:
(The bird harvest was.......interesting and I'll post about it later. But for now, I'm just glad it's a done job.)
A corner of the garage floor looks like this (except that the pumpkins are not sideways):
The pumpkins are for us and the chickens. Last winter I had a couple of squash that got soft before we could eat them so I gave them to the chickens. I had read that the birds do pretty well on pumpkins as a vitamin C supplement during winter. So this year I hit up the local farmers markets just after Halloween for any and all left over pumpkins. I got a great haul for just cents on the dollar. I crack them open and step back as the chickens go crazy for the pumpkin guts. They eat the fruit down to the shell. It's kind of eerie to walk into the coop and see all these spent shells....kind of like the skins of dead creatures. Weird.
That's pretty much it for the root cellar type foods. My mountain boy husband says that he will build rodent proof bins for the garage next summer until we can get either a root cellar dug or built into the "to-be-built" barn. I have some great ideas about storing next years celery, live onions (as opposed to dead or dug up) and leeks.
Right now we have a spare downstairs room that holds the canned goods. But next year we should also have a real pantry to boast about......with shelves and everything! I also need to really think about water storage. We don't have any extra water stored at all. And speaking of water......we really need to look into a hand pump for the well, in case we ever have a true electric outage for any length of time.
Lots to think about.
Lots to plan for.
Isn't it fun???
Friday, December 10, 2010
This is the road to my house. My wonderful, new, old, house.......
Those sweet, little toots. I think I'll go put some cookies in the oven right now before they get home from school
See this sock?
It looks like an ordinary sock. But it's kind of stiff. If you get too close the smell burns your nose hairs and makes your eyes water. It belongs to my oldest son. It is one of his dirty baseball socks. The interesting thing is that Fall baseball has been over for about 6 weeks. He found this one buried in the bottom of his bedroom closet.
Don't get too close.
This one is bad.
The exposure could change your life.
And not for the better.
I'm not kidding.
(My son said it was a little "stuck" to the carpet.)
It must be love.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
These are some pumpkins from our friend's garden with just a dusting of snow.....before the "big blow". They were so cute clumped together on our porch....heralding in the Fall. But now they are all stuck together in a solid lump of orangey, white ice, looking kind of strange and sad. I hope I can pry them off the porch before spring or they will be a mass of gooey, limp pumpkin wanna-bees.
It's pouring down snow right now (I still say "pouring" down snow. I'm sure there's a more better way of saying "it's snowing like crazy", but, dang it, I'm from Texas......I don't know any better). And though it's already been snowing for about a month, it's still beautiful. I wonder if I'm going to think this same way in about 2 months when it's still "pouring" down snow.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Though it's been a nice
(unexpected) break I've been gone for way too long. The words have been backing up in my brain. The words have been screaming in my brain. They have to get out! So here we are.....screaming words.
Lots of GREAT things have happened to our family in the last couple of months since I last posted.The best news is that....... WE BOUGHT OUR HOUSE!!!!! Yup- we are now HOME OWNERS!!! The man who owned the great house we were renting generously agreed to come down to our offer. And we now own the house we have been renting for 2 years. We closed about 2 weeks ago.
Living in this house for a while before buying it has it's advantages and disadvantages.
The pros are-
--we don't have to move;
--we already know the house pretty well so we (hopeful) won't have any unhappy surprises;
--we don't have to move;
--we have 10 wonderful usable acres to spread out onto (I see a much bigger garden, a barn and fruit trees in our future....maybe even our own milk cow!);
--we don't have to move;
--the kids love the house:
--we don't have to move;
--we know our neighbors and our 'hood already;
and the best news of all is...... we don't have to move!
The cons are-
--we won't have that excitement that comes with moving into a house and won't have that "honeymoon phase" but as far as I'm concerned, it's a small price to pay to not have to move! Yea!
The house has been a rental for about 6 years and needs the TLC that comes with ownership. So in the next several months I will be discussing garden plots, barn plans, fruit tree hardiness and wood stove models. Of course we will be painting and replacing the roof (well, the roof will have to wait until summer as the whole of NW Montana is covered in 10 inches of late Fall snow!) and pricing hard wood floors.
So we have some work to do.
But the house is ours! Warts and all!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
So to celebrate the glory that is Fall, I'm baking a Jack Apple cake. This is a wonderful recipe that was given to me when we lived in Appalachia way back when. The kids love it. So here's the recipe. It makes two loaves when baked in a bread pan and I already have a couple in the oven as I write this. The house smells amazingly-wonderful. Just the thing for All-Falls-Eve.
Jack Apple Cake
3 large eggs
2 ¾ cup flour
3 large apples
2 cups sugar
¼ cup honey, heated
1 stick butter, melted
a dash cinnamon or more if you like cinnamon
1 ¾ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking powder
Peel and dice apples and place in a large bowl with 1 ½ cups sugar (set aside other half cup for topping), sprinkle the cinnamon over the apples then drizzle the warmed honey and mix into a nice gooey concoction . Allow to cool in the 'fridge for 2 hours. Do not skip this step. After 2 hours, add all wet ingredients (half melted stick of butter, eggs, oil, vanilla) and mix with a gentle hand. Add in tablespoon baking powder. Add flour and gently stir the batter. It will be wet. Pour into greased bread loaf pan. Now melt other half stick of butter, add to it the held back sugar and some cinnamon and mix them into a paste. Use a spoon to drip it over the batter. This step makes a kind of crust that bakes into the cake. Bake at 350 degrees 30-40 minutes. Watch the cake. Sometimes it seems to bake fast and you REALLY don't want to burn this baby. When knife comes out clean it’s done. Serve warm with homemade whipped cream.
Then sit back and smile as your eaters will think they have the most magnificent mother who ever lived.
And they will be right.