Sunday, February 28, 2010 kingdom for real milk!

Last summer I came this close (finger and thumb only 1 inch apart to emphasize point) to owning my own milk cow. I've always wanted a milk cow. Having a dairy animal would be another big step in our family's move toward food independence. Just think what one could do with that milk: butter, whipped cream, yogurt, kefir, cheese....oh, the cheese. (I'm quite in love with diary fat as the size of my fanny can attest.) She was a Jersey/ Holstein cross, had a 3 month old steer baby by her side and was already bred back to a Jersey bull. Heavens! I couldn't believe my good fortune!

But as luck would have it: the cow didn't happen. In a series of unfortunate events (some my fault, some not) the deal fell through. I was REALLY disappointed. More disappointed than I realized I could be over a milk cow. Especially a cow that was never meant to be mine because....... we live in a rent house. (Now why in the world would a landlord ever allow a tenant to own a milk cow? I was not living in the real world when I sunk my heart into that dream! I thought I might get lucky.... almost did.)

But this sad, sad tail (pardon the pun) is not to end here.
Recently, I found a local milk supplier! I have a friend from church who owns shares in a small herd of Jerseys. She pays the farmer to feed, house and milk the animals. In return she gets several gallons a week of the thick, white, wonderful stuff; cream and all. I contacted the farmer and I'm going tomorrow to visit his Jersey girls. If there is an available share, I'll gleefully plunk down the money and strut out the door with my treasure sloshing in a gallon jar. I can't wait!!! I see amazingly, lovely, fresh, butter in my family's future. I see creamy, white yogurt with melts in the mouth goodness. Ooooo, I see happiness.

Oh, I can't wait.

I'll keep you posted.....

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I started some seeds in the basement tonight. I started celery seeds from two different seed companies to see which, if either, germinated quicker or produced a better celery plant (a science fair project in the making). And I planted basil and cilantro. (I've found that cilantro is a love or hate herb. I love it and the rest of my family hates it.)

I don't have a green house or I'd start the babies in my own soil mix and wooden flats. But I do have a small room in the basement.....and I'm happy! I used to have just a little corner in my bedroom where I started seeds. Not very conducive to romance (Smooch, smooch."Honey, do I smell basil?" Smooch, smooch. "Why, yes, you do," smoochy, smooch....."hey, where are you going?" "To the kitchen, I'm all of a sudden hungry.")

I usually start the seeds in a cut down milk jug with small holes in the bottom. I gently lay the seeds on top of the soil, mist them and put the whole milk jug tray into a large zip lock bag. Then I place them on a heating pad. You could use a heating pad made for starting seedlings but they seem pretty expensive. I just use a heating pad that I bought at Target a long time ago when I hurt my back (THAT'S another story). The whole shebang goes under some grow lights I picked up at the end of last season for a steal!

And this is the product! These are pictures of our garden last year at about mid-season. The cardboard milk cartons are holding and blanching celery.

Mmmmmm. Good stuff. I can hardly wait.

It's a good thing we have snow

Even though there is A LOT of complaining about the snow this time of year, I'm kind of glad we still have some.

Most things look nice in the snow.
The chicken coop looks nice in the snow (ignore the wooden door with the cheesey-painted-trees-that-blew-off-it's-hinges-that-I-haven't-put-back-on yet.)

There are many things that a person can do in the snow. Kids especially find great activites to do in the snow. If there were no more snow......

my boys would be bored.....

...or have cervical spinal injuries.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Some smells have color

I'm starting seeds in the basement this week end. It's time. I almost jumped the gun and started the babies earlier this month. But I'm not waiting anymore. My heart needs to see the little guys.

I started thinking about seedlings again yesterday afternoon. I was sewing up a simple skirt of small, red and blue, flowered cotton for my sweet daughter. And since I had been working steadily over the skirt for more than an hour, I thought I'd wander outside to give my sore back a break. I stepped out on onto the south porch and was struck with wonder. The world smelled....... green. (Some smells have color, you know.) I could close my eyes and imagine it had just rained because of that glorious aroma. The Earth smelled wet and growing and green.

When I opened my eyes I found that the source of my wonderful smell was a late winter thunderhead making it's way across the southern end of our valley.

I stood there for about 10 minutes just watching.

And smelling.

And breathing the sweet scent of spring yet to come.

But the moment was fleeting because soon a cold wind blew the beautiful thunderheads away. And about an hour snowed. I guess it is still February, after all. But the whiff of green reminded me that spring will come. It always does. We just have to wait a little longer. So I tucked the great, green scent into my heart where it will keep with images of yellow, tasseled, corn stalks swaying in the breeze and curling pumpkins hiding their orange treasures under big, sticky leaves and fuzzy, baby chicks snuggled safely into their mother's downy feathers. It's all there waiting. It's just not time.

So I think I'll start some seeds in the basement this week end. Because I need them now. Because I'll need them when spring really comes to stay.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ghostly images

I LOVE to take pictures of my kids and events and the cool place we live. But I'm NOT a photographer. Repeat....NOT a photographer. This is usually quite evident in how my pictures turn out.... blurry. I'd like to think it's because I'm collecting images of my kids "in the moment". But the reality is I just stink. I'm trying to get better but it's frustrating. With the advent of Adobe and PhotoShop and all the other computer photo help available to me, there is just no excuse for poor pictures. Except that I still can't shoot and click. I just can't do it! A good example is the above picture. It's blurry....very blurry. You can't tell too much because I took the picture in the dark. (Which is one reason why it's blurry.) So I tried again. This showed up on the screen:

What is that ghostly, cloudy image on the camera? Kind of freaked me out. I pulled the camera away from my face but couldn't see what the lens was picking up. So I took another one.

There is was again!

And again!
Hummm. What the heck was going on? What was I doing?

Before I took these pictures I had been washing dishes at the sink when I noticed how blue it was outside. I wanted to try and capture the blueness. So I quickly wiped my hands, grabbed the camera and stepped out onto the subfreezing porch. With the first picture the camera wasn't set on automatic so the flash didn't snap..... hence the blurriness. But I set it to automatic with the next several pictures and it looks like the flash had captured the steam coming off of my still damp hands. Very cool! I couldn't have duplicated that in a million years! (I know because I tried!). So maybe there's hope for me after if there was just a market for blurry, ghostly images of steam.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's early and I'm the first one up in the house........

It’s early and I’m the first one up in the house. It’s completely dark outside and quiet inside. My feet are cold on the wooden floor in spite of my woolen socks because I turn the heat off at night. With the children snuggled under down comforters and my husband snuggled up next to me, there’s no need for extra heat through the night. I’ll turn it on just before they stagger out to the kitchen for breakfast. By then the room will be warm from the oven where I have huckleberry scones baking. I love that we have frozen huckleberries stashed in the freezer to be resurrected during the deep winter. They are like small bursts of summer sunshine during the darkest part of the year. We never seem to pick enough.

I can hear my husband moving around in the back of the house. He’s pulling on his winter gear so he can walk the quarter mile down our drive in the snow to get the newspaper. Our golden retriever puppy quivers in her kennel. She knows she’ll get to go too. She spends most of her time outside with her nose to the ground, regardless of the snow, to get a whiff of the wildness. I grind the java beans and start the coffee pot ready for a stout cup of steaming hot PEETS. NPR is playing quietly on the radio that lives on top of our refrigerator. My mountain boy husband appears with his wool hat jammed on his head; his hiking boots laced up and ready for action. He is a morning person and his eyes just sparkle as he frees the dog from her kennel cave. Where I have to get up this early out of necessity, he gets up because he loves it. Even a walk in the snow and darkness at this hour is an adventure. They head out together into the cold. I watch them from the kitchen window until I can’t make out their forms; the red puppy darting here and there alternating between dancing around my husband’s feet and nose to the ground smelling something wonderful that only she can sense. I have so much to do today: chickens to doctor, animals to feed, lunches to make, clothes to fold. But all that can wait for the moment. I’m going to sip my coffee and gaze out the window and wait for the adventurers to return in the predawn light.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Chicken Tragedy

I really wanted this site to be fun and fun-loving with recipes and pictures (I'm still working on the pictures....I'm not very camera oriented) and sharing our family and farm life. But I have to talk about a near death experience that happened to some of our chickens yesterday which I'm still upset about (for all you grammar teachers out there....I know you're not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition....but we had near tragedy at our farm. I'm allowed some errors. OK, back to the story.)

I was preparing supper in the kitchen when my sick, home-from-school 10 year old son heard something on the front porch. It sounded like vigorous thumping. When I went to investigate, I saw two strange dogs tearing up one of our chickens! On our front porch! There were feathers everywhere and the rooster was screaming (I've never heard a rooster was kind of hair raising.) I grabbed the broom and kicked/ scooted (well, OK, I guess I really whacked) the dogs off the bird and off the porch. Both dogs sat right down on the very edge of the driveway and smiled at me (you know how some dogs can smile?) as if to ask permission to play with the bird some more! I was so angry! I grabbed one of the dogs by the tags to find the owners information. I called and left a not so neighborly message that included words like "chickens, dogs, murderers, blood, trespassing, gun....". The neighbor called back almost immediately. She was mortified and said all the right things an owner of murdering dogs should say. In the end she picked up the dogs (who were still playing together in the yard, totally unrepentant of what they had just done) and promised to make restitution for my injured animals. When I reviewed the damage, it looks like the rooster will be alright. He had ALL of his beautiful tail feathers pulled out and some fairly deep scrapes along his belly. One of the hens has a couple of superficial puncture wounds in her body and another hen is MIA. The other 9 hens were unscathed except for being completely rattled. This morning they seem alright: talking to each other like usual, scratching, moving around the yard looking for interesting tidbits. I am breathing a sigh of relief ....for right now. I know chickens are funny. Sometimes when they are attacked like this they seem OK one day and the next day they are dead.....infection, post traumatic stress disorder (if I were a chicken I'd have PTSD) or any number of things. The flock is really not worth a lot of money. They are a motley crew of young chickens that I received for free from a family that hatched them last summer, then had to unexpectedly move. But they are an important part of our family shift toward food independence and self sustainability. The hens had just started laying fairly regularly when this happened. And I'm not sure when they'll start laying again. No eggs yet today.

I know that living in the country has it's great moments.....actually, most moments are better than great. I think that's why when something like this happens, it totally shocks and disorients me. I can almost forgive a fox or coon for doing the wild animal thing. But to have some one's pet come into my yard, onto the porch of my house and attack my animals......well that feels more like a violation. I know there are laws protecting my chickens but that doesn't change our immediate situation. I have injured birds and one is probably dead in the forest. My country-boy husband reminded me that I need to get used to the idea of loosing animals unexpectedly. But this seems different. I just wasn't prepared for family dogs to be the marauders. I guess I'll know better next time. And I'm sure there will be a next time.....that's living in the country.

Monday, February 22, 2010


As you can see by the comment section from my last post, there were 100's if not 1000's of requests for the brownie recipe....NOT! So I thought I'd get a jump on the future requests by including the recipe here. Let me make it known that I am not the best cook or baker. But I'm a pretty good eater as testified by my chubbiness

I collected this recipe from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper in 1997. I've made them many, many times and the kids love them. Of course they are biased because I won't let them have any other brownie known to man so they will always think mine are the best.

Here is the recipe in all it's delicious glory. (I will not be held responsible for the fanny damage due to eating the whole pan while still warm. I've enough fanny damage of my own, thank you. )

Lunch- Box Brownies

1/4 cup butter

3/4 cup shortening

3/4 cup cocoa

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped nuts (optional.....I don't usually use these as they are kind of expensive)

Melt butter and shortening in large saucepan over low heat; stir in cocoa. Remove from heat and add sugar, eggs and vanilla; mix well.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt and add to chocolate mixture (I just add these one at a time to the above mix and haven't had any problems). Add nuts and mix well. Spread in greased 9-by-13 by-2-inch pan. Bake 30-35 minutes and 350. Cool in pan and sprinkle with powdered sugar (I can't ever get to the sprinkling part. Somebody usually cuts into the pan before I can do any sprinkling!).Cut into squares.
Remember I'm not responsible.

Sick kid.....poor baby boy

My youngest is sick today and home from school. He coughed A LOT last night and began running a low grade fever this morning. So we are home together. I secretly kind of love it when one of the kids are home with me. I don't want them to be sick but I don't get many opportunities to spend one-on-one time with them so I try to make it at least a little fun. Though not too much fun since the idea is to get better and go back to school. It's a tenuous balance between being babied and bored. Right now he is propped up on the couch eating homemade tomato soup laced with dried herbs and winter stored veggies from our garden: oregano, parsley, carrots, celery, potatoes, onions and tomatoes (I guess I didn't have to say tomatoes again. I guess you can't have tomato soup without tomatoes. I'm funny like that.). Later he'll get to be the first to try a pan of freshly baked make sure they aren't poisonous. Then he'll help me fold some clothes and we'll watch the cooking channel together. Maybe piles and piles of folded socks and a strong dose of Paula Dean will help him recover and he'll be ready to go back to school tomorrow.
If his cough is better.
And if the brownies weren't that good.
And if he's not been too babied today.
And if I'm ready to let him go back. Because I really don't want him to be sick. But if he is then I can baby him a little more. Did I just say "baby him"? I meant bore him a little more. I'm a mean momma.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I used to be.....

I’m a former ER/ flight nurse turned kid wrangler. I used to wear steel-toed boots, a helmet and a Nomex one piece flight suit to work. I’d come home sometimes covered in blood, guts and dirt. I found my husband amongst the blood and guts. He was a transplanted mountain boy/ flight paramedic looking for experience in the knife and gun club of the Great Southwest. Together we fell in love, got married and birthed four wild, wonderful children. We went on to finished graduate school and move back to the mountains of my husband’s youth. Now I find my days filled with fixing (I’ve heard rumors that this is not the correct use of the word “fix”. Tough. Most of Texas thinks it is) food for the masses, digging the suburban out of snow banks (I still drive like a Texan) and fervently pursuing thrift as an alternative lifestyle. I am becoming more and more passionate about finding or producing quality food that has not been grown in a chemical slurry (so my kids don’t end up growing a third eye from all the foreign substances in our food). In all my spare time I try to record this hilarious living in pictures and words. Whew....I feel better. Thanks for letting me share!

Chicken Fried Happiness

I grew up in the South where the the last meal of the day was called supper. Bread and butter was served at every meal. Many of the evening meals were composed of fried meats with gravy. And we had dessert after every supper. Supper meant family and conversations and laughing (sometimes fighting between brothers) and love. It didn't matter what exactly we were served on our plates, the love of our family served right into our hearts at those meals would carry us through the night or the next day or the week until we were able to come together as family again. The food would sustain our bodies and the love would sustain our souls. Food meant family and family meant love.
I live in Montana now with my husband and our four wild kids. Though I try to have more vegetables than meat at the meals I serve (and not many fried dishes), we still call our last meal supper. And my husband and I gather our children each evening to share our laughing and stories and fun and sad times of the day...... and to eat. It's sustaining. It's magical. It's supper. It's family. It's love.

I started this blog to share our family tales with our extended families who don't get to live next door. I wanted them to share in our Chicken Fried Happiness.