Monday, January 31, 2011

It is drop dead gorgeous outside.

And -18 degrees.

It' so cold that my breath just about freezes in my chest when I take the red puppy out for her morning constitution. The sun is blinding and air hums with brilliance. What a great day! All this sunshine energizes me. Now what can we do outside in negative degree temperatures?

First of all, breakfast!

The kids are off from school today and are still sleeping in, those lazy bones. So after a big breakfast of huckleberry pancakes and a pound of sugar cured bacon (we have a friend who we get our pork from- he raises all his meat the way we would here on our farm and then sugar cures the hams and bacon. The meat is really good and since I know how he handles the animals, I'm happy to buy pork from his family) we are going to venture outside to have some fun. Maybe cross country skiing! We have been so busy with basketball-scouts-volleyball-babysitting-school stuff that we haven't XC skied this whole winter.

But for now, the house is quiet and the red puppy is contentedly chewing on an old bone. I think I'll put on another sweatshirt, get a big mug of coffee and catch up on some correspondence......and warm up.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I began making a list of the seeds that need to be ordered for this year’s garden. I have several packets of left-over seeds yet. So I need to research the "shelf life" of some of these before ordering more. (IE: How long to carrot seeds last in storage before losing virility? One year? Two?)

I LOVE ordering seeds. It makes me happy. I sometimes think that dreaming of the garden is more fun than the actual working of the garden. In my dream garden there are no bugs or crop failures or freak freezes (in August!!!!)......a perfect garden every time. But the produce doesn't taste as good in my dreams as it does in real life. So I guess I'll stick with the real thing.

To celebrate the time honored task of ordering seeds, I planted some Bright Lights Swiss chard in a pot of organic soil. This pot is going on the window sill next to the sprouting beets. Hopefully between the two, our family will have fresh greens to gorge ourselves upon. Yummm.

The weather has really turned off bitter.
The ambient temperature is only 11 degrees. But the wind! The wind is blowing at about 20 mph, which drops the temperature down into the negative digits. Right now the wind chill is -7 and the snow is blowing and drifting. I'm happy that my family is all inside and accounted for. (The kids came home from their prospective activities after church.) And I've done what I can for the chickens and rabbits; extra high carb foods and warm, thick bedding. I would love to bring them all in the house on days like this but the sudden warmth would probably put them into shock. Plus, they don't seemed bothered by the cold in the least. The chickens are happily moving around the coop floor picking at seeds and alfalfa pellets dropped by the rabbits. And the rabbits are eating and drinking without complaint.

Which brings me to a topic of frustration for me.
See this? This is the fire place we have in our house; our brand-new-to-us (kind of) house that we rented for two years before we bought it 2 months ago.

(It looks kind of bare because I just took down all of the Christmas decorations and you know how bare everything looks after the Christmas decorations are just taken down.)

If you notice, the fire is not lit. The hearth is cold.
This is frustrating to me because we live in Montana. North West Montana, no less, where the winters can be really brutal. We even have acres and acres of self sustaining fuel in the form of trees a stones throw from my front porch. But this is a fake fire place. It's pretty and it will light, but since it's just a gas fire place, the logs don't burn and therefore there is no true warmth.
If you look closely, you can see that the logs are ceramic. Why would anyone have a fake fire place in this part of the country when a real wood burner is so practical?

Replacing this pretty fire place with a wood burner is on the list of things to do yet. We've already upgraded the boiler and we need to replace the roof before the whole thing blows off (it was "high nailed"), hopefully sometime early this summer.

Along with enlarging the garden, increasing our home grown meat supply (meat chickens, a couple more turkeys and maybe a pig) our family is slowly moving toward being a little more self sustaining. We have lots of great plans: a perimeter fence, an orchard, a dairy animal (goat or cow) and a barn. Yea!
So much to do. We've got some great plans for this family farm.
I can't wait.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It's cold and blustery outside. I can hear the snowy, East wind blasting against the house in waves. The noise startles and confuses the red puppy. She will suddenly jump up from her warm place on the floor, bristling for a fight when she hears an unusual noise made by the wind.

I laid out an extra scoop of cracked corn for the hens and their husbands. And I pushed several handfuls of grass hay into the rabbit cages during evening chores. The door to the little red coop is secured and all inside are warm and dozing.

Our own house is warm and comfortable, but three of our four kids are spending the night away from home this cold night. The two Jr. High kids are at a church retreat. The youngest is spending the night at a friend’s house. All are safe and warm as I've spoken to each of them but I wish they were dozing on the couch all piled up on another as they are apt to do on Saturday nights. I find myself wandering over to the window to peer into the darkness. I can't see anything. It's been dark for several hours. Maybe it's just the wind making me jumpy but I wish they were all home. I think I'll put a pot of coffee on to brew. I'm not sure how much sleep I'm going to get anyway.

On our way to food security in 2011

I got all the little beets snugged in their plastic pots and placed in a window that would get sun, if we happen to get any sun this time of year. I usually use the bottom of one of the multitudes of plastic milk jugs we get from the store for starting all our plantlings. If we ever get a cow, I'm going to have to figure some thing out because we use these jugs for a lot of things.
So here they are. The beginning of our food security hedge.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spring's first seeds

No these are not aliens coming to take our children away. These are beets.

Going through our storage bins of winter food, I found several (20 to be exact) beets that have begun to spout tiny little leaves. I was ecstatic! Tomorrow I'm going to plant these guys in pots and put them in a sunny window. (Well, actually, in a south facing window that would get sun if we actually had sun this time of year.) And maybe these little leaves will get bigger and turn green. Then we can carefully harvest the leaves and include them in our winter salads. I've been really hungry for fresh greens. Beet greens can sometimes be strong (my kids complain that greens taste like dirt) but we've all been longing for something fresh. So I don't think there will be any complaints (forget the salad- how 'bout fresh baby beet greens sauteed in a dollop of butter and garlic....mmmmm).

After the beets have completely stretched themselves to put out all the leaves they are going to put out before true spring, maybe it will be warm enough to put the pots of beets on the front porch. Then later in the garden. Since these beets are from last years crop, when they bolt they will make seeds. And if I'm paying attention and not running after kids or dogs or chickens or rabbits I will be able to harvest the seeds. Yea! That means that these beets might have inside them the first seeds to be saved this year. These babies will be the parents of many beets grown here at the farm.

Grow guys, grow!

And then there were three

Look what I found in the coop today!
Three little surprises instead of the-every-other-day-one!

(Please excuse the big, pink, alien hand. Yikes!)

Monday, January 24, 2011

OK, I'm going to say it again this year.....but this time in capital letters because all caps make such a statement:




There. I've said it. "I've spoken my piece and counted to three" (*name that movie)

I'm going to save seeds this year because of multiple reasons. I think it's really important to know how to save seeds for future years because it frees our family from the big business of seed selling and big agribusiness (GMOs). It also insures our ability to continue in our family's push toward self subsistence. And I want to pass this information to my children so they too can know how to save seeds; yet another homesteading skill. And buying seeds every year just flat out gets expensive!

So, all that being said, I've begun learning just how to save seeds successfully. I know it's going to be one of those many-year adventures in experimentation. I've already been able to save the easy seeds: the big ones like different types of squash and corn. But there are lots of seed that have truly escaped me like carrots, beets, different lettuces, tomatoes..... all the smaller or biannual type seeds.

So I'm beginning an intensive reading campaign on seed saving so I'll be ready for this next gardening season. There are also many, many websites out there that offer all sorts of advice and techniques. Actually, I can't wait. Saving seeds appeals to the scientist in me. And "that old dog can't wait to hunt!" (That's an old saying that my dad used to use.....well, actually he used to say "that old dog don't hunt" meaning "that idea just doesn't work with me". But I didn't use it exactly how he would have, I think he would know what I least I think so.)

I'm starting with this book because this is the first one our little home town library could get for me. There is a long list of requested books still coming. Lots of great winter reading while the garden is still sleeping under a covering of snow.

I'll keep you abreast (I love that word!!!) of our progress.........

(***The quote comes from "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou"*****)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I hate going out into the chicken coop at night.
I don't really do it on purpose.
Night sometimes just sneaks up on me.
Even with a light I feel vulnerable. In the coop. In the dark.

Though the worst surprise encounter I've ever had in the coop was a sleeping skunk. (After eating 6 eggs and taking about a 5 hour nap he waddled off into the forest without misshap.)
Still, you never know what might be waiting for you.

The Wolf Moon

We've had the treat of clear skies the last several nights. I can't even remember when I've ever seen the moon so full on a winter night. We just don't have clear skies in January. So when I was awakened by the light of the full moon shining in my north facing bedroom window, I was kind of startled. The Native Americans have names for the full moons. The names often coincide with what is going on in nature.

The Full Snow Moon is in February since the heaviest snow often falls during this month. Some tribes also referred to this Moon as the Full Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.

Full Worm Moon is March. As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter.

The Full Buck Moon is July because this is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month’s Moon was the Full Hay Moon.

January's moon is called the Full Wolf Moon. I guess it's named for the hungry wolf packs that howled outside villages in the early settler days.

I'm sure the full moon gleaming in the distant sky and hungry wolves baying at the door didn't do much for pioneer romance, but it does something to me. I catch myself gazing and sighing at that big globe. I get itchy feet during times of weather change. (And clear skies are definitely a change around here.) I can feel myself dreaming of warm breezes and distant lands and adventure. But the reality is that I have a sink of dirty dishes and animals that need to be fed and children that need supper........ and a wonderful husband to snuggle into tonight in our big warm bed and a great book that I'm dying to start.

So I think I'll just sigh at that big moon for another night and think of spring that's just around the corner with all the busy-ness that comes with warmer weather. And be happy that we don't have wolves howling at the door. And that our kids are warm and safe in their beds. And that we are content and happy to be together.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

So OK, the pumpkins in the garage had to Due to several weeks of temperatures hovering around zero, some of the pumpkins in the garage had gotten frozen and now were unfrozen and soft. Some of them were even leaking onto the garage floor. I promised my mountain boy husband that I would take care of the over ripe squash while he was out of town. So today I hauled the orbs out of the garage and every so gently pushed them off the sled into the field next to the snow covered garden. There was a small pile of pumpkins and it took me 157 sled loads before I got the garage cleaned out. OK, maybe just 6 loads but it felt like 157.

And of course I had help.

Lots of help.

Now they are all gone but this one:

This one had to stay. His shell is still firm. His skin is still orange. His handle stays in place when yanked upon. So he stays....for now. I just can't bear to put him out there in the field like so many rotten fruit.

Most would think upon this as a failed experiment in food storage. But not me. We only lost about 1/8th of the pumpkins I bought post Halloween. That means the chickens have eaten A LOT. And the soft ones were not thrown away but put out in the field. I'm hoping these garage babies will go-forth-and-multiple of their own accord and we will have a ready made pumpkin patch this summer! Maybe we won't have to even plant pumpkins seeds. Though we lost a few squash, hopefully we will have a great pumpkin patch to show for the sacrifice.

Look this one was so "broken up" about the change in scenery that she's "spilling her guts" to the other pumpkins. I'm sure as soon as she gets used to her new snow field, she'll "seed" her life in a new light.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Let them have PIZZA!!!

It's cold and dreary and rainy and snowy (at the same time) and yucky. This all means it's PIZZA FOR SUPPER TONIGHT!!!!

Usually, the pizza dough is what keeps the normal, average person running to the local pizza place instead of making the pie at home....which is easier, quicker and by far cheaper than running to the corner for a pizza fix. It's so easy, we have pizza about once a week. I found this recipe for crust a loooong time ago. So long ago that I used to make it for my nieces and nephews when they were little. So long ago that I didn't even know my most wonderful mountain boy. So long ago that I think I even made the first crust in a wood burning stove (just kidding). I've made this so many times that I have it MEMORIZED....which is very cool. Because I don't need a recipe anymore, I guess I've graduated to the team of great women who give out recipes with steps like "a pinch of this" and "a slosh of that" like both of my grandmothers, my own mother, most of my friends mothers, Aunt Bea and June Cleaver. (But only when it comes to making pizza. I'm still in the starter mode in all other home duties.)

(Disclaimer----this recipe uses........yeast. So many people are afraid of yeast. There's nothing to be afraid of.......don't freak out. The yeast is what makes this recipe great! Just go to the store and get a couple of packets of yeast. You will not regret it!!!!)

So here it is:

One packet of yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup of warmish water with a dash of sugar in a large bowel (did I just say bowel? I meant to say bowl)

After the above mixture is all bubbly, about 5 minutes, mix 2 cups of flour into the yeast and a slosh of oil (what ever kind of oil you like or have on hand. I have both olive oil and canola.) Then let the mixer whirl it around while you add enough water to allow the dough to become a ball while spinning in the mixing bowl- a couple of table spoons. (If you add too much water and the mixture is too wet and gooey, just add more flour a handful at a time until the dough mixture works itself into a ball.)

Then allow the flour ball to rest inside the bowl for 5 minutes....that means don't mess with it. Let that dough rest, I say!

Next you grab that dough ball and start patting it out on a greased cookie sheet or a pizza stone. Pat that baby until you get that dough into the shape you need it to be. Then the fun starts: put on top of the sweet dough whatever toppings float your boat: cheese, fruit, veggies of all sorts, sweets like chocolate sauce. You like it, it could probably be put in a pizza. You don't always need tomato sauce. We've had breakfast pizza topped with fried eggs, bacon and cream cheese, we've had veggie pizza with zucchini hidden in the sauce (when did this sometimes when the kids were little) and the ever favorite hot dog pizza.The pizza is only limited by your imagination.

After the pizza dough is properly dressed, place in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.

The pie pictured above is a Ranch Chicken Pizza. We eat this one a lot. You bake the naked dough until it's a little brownish around the edges, then slather ranch dressing all over the top, then drop bites of cooked chicken and top with your favorite cheese. Place back into the hot oven until the cheese is all bubbly and the kitchen fills with an amazing aroma and your mouth is all watery and you-just-can't-wait-another-minute-you've-just-gotta-have-that-pizza.

And that's it!
Pizza for everyone.
Try it just once (or twice) and if you don't like it or it doesn't turn out....."comment" me. We'll have a pizza tutorial.

Thank you and good night.

Monday, January 17, 2011

In praise of cold weather foot gear

Here is my arsenal of cold weather foot gear.

The items might have changed in color or slightly in style, but for the last seven years or more, the gear has basically remained the same. From right to left:

- leather hiking boots and I love them. I wear these almost exclusively in the winter. They hit me right at the ankle which is perfect for most of what I do in the snow - tippy-toe from the house to the 'buban; run from the 'burban to the store; clomp from the 'burban to - the post office, all the schools my kids go to, sometimes church (but not too often. I haven't lost ALL sense of style!).....

- muck boots. These are all rubber and I love them. I wear these only to take care of the animals in all weather but the deep summer. They are water proof, mud proof, poop proof, bomb proof. They also come in different colors and patterns now. I saw a really cute pair in a flowered pattern. These are still in good shape so I can't justify buying a new pair yet. But watch out! I can't wait for the girls in the chicken coop to get a load of my new flowered muck boots!

- snow boots and I love them. My mountain boy husband bestowed these upon me during our first Christmas here in Montana and I cried......for joy. I love these boots. My piggies were very worried that they would suffer when we moved from the relative warmth of West Virginia to the snowy mountains of the North West. They are very warm and toasty and my feet are never cold when encased in these babies. But they are kinda heavy. So I keep them in the back of the 'buban at all times from the first snow fall, just in case I dump the SUV into a ditch or something.

- faux leather booties worn only for church. No Texan would really ever be caught dead in these. They have leather uppers and RUBBER soles. Perfect for wet weather but really only for looks, not for "kicking".

Well, that's the score.
Foot wear for the descerning mountain woman.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's cold and dreary and wet outside. As a matter of fact, it's raining. I'm not sure exactly how that's possible since the temperatures haven't been above freezing for weeks. It's only 23 degrees now. But it's raining. I let the kids bow out of animal chores this morning because we were running a little late and I wasn't sure how the weather was going to affect out commute the 12 miles into town. So, much to their disappointment (not!), I'm doing feeding chores this morning.

The wind starts to pick up and I can feel my hands begin to stick to the metal bucket handles as I push my way through knee deep snow to the coop with chicken and rabbit feed. Dang it. I should have been more careful in making sure my hands were bone dry before coming outside. I feed kitchen scraps and cracked corn to the herd of chickens. Then fill rabbit feeders with a barley/ alfalfa pellet mixture. And suddenly I notice an egg in one of the nesting boxes. The hens haven't been laying all that well since the really cold weather started. Actually, they haven't been laying at all. Between the cold and dark, the eggs have been few and far between. But there, in an otherwise empty nesting box, was a beautiful darkish brown egg. When I picked it up, it was still warm. Ahhhh. The egg warms my cold, wet hands. It feels good when I put my hand into my coat pocket next to the warm egg and it makes me smile.

Isn’t it funny that single brown egg from a little golden hen can warm your whole day?

Monday, January 10, 2011

So there I was, sitting in the pew at church yesterday morning, surrounded by my sweet children, listening to a gifted musician play special music during the offertory. The gentleman was working a violin and was wonderfully talented. He was playing a classic old religious hymn with his own delightful twang of ol’timey mountain music spun into the tune and it was enchanting. As I swayed in my seat, I leaned over to my daughter and whispered that someday I was going to learn to play the violin. She made a sound that was similar to scoff (but off course couldn't have been since she is much too respectful to scoff at her mother) and whispered back “Do you think you are too old to learn to play the violin?” Seeing the look of shock on my face, she tried to back pedal: “I mean, do they have instrument lessons for older people"? Her face was becoming redder and redder: “Do you think you can find a violin you can handle?” It was getter worser and worser: "I mean, are there such things as violin lessons for people in their 40's or 50's"? Finally, she just stopped talking. We stared at each other for a moment. Then she looked ahead with her face all red and herself all embarrassed. I just resumed swaying in time to the music.

I'll show them all I can learn new things.
I'm not dead, you know!
Just watch.
Now, if I can just find me a fiddle!

It is absolutely gorgeous outside.

But looks can deceive.

It's 4 degrees.....below zero. Brrrrr.

Taking a deep breath makes the slight moisture at the entrance of your nostrils freeze and tickle. It makes a little creaking sound when you flare your nostrils. I'd never known such a thing until I moved to Montana. My nostrils never creaked in Texas. I guess I didn't know what I was missing.

Thank goodness I came to my senses.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Tonight we have Teriyaki chicken and cabbage on the menu. The chicken is one of the kids' favorites and the cabbage is mine. The chicken is from the seven roos we inherited as "fillers" for the banties we received in the mail from the hatchery (see July 15, 2010 post). The meat pieces are smaller than what one could buy in the store, but we raised this meat so I know exactly what is actually inside: no solution to "enhance flavor", no hormones, just grass and bugs and sunshine and mountain breezes.

Anywhoo, here's the recipe for Teriyaki chicken: some brown sugar, a slosh of oil and a slosh of soy sauce and a couple of glugs of apple cider vinegar, a sprinkling of ginger and a liberal shake of garlic powder. Place all in the bowel (Did I just write "bowel" again? Dang this nurse brain. I meant "bowl") with the chicken and let soak for 2 hours or so. Then broil until the juices run clear......yummmmm.

This is a picture of cabbage that we are having for supper, too. Cabbage is really easy to start from seed. Get some seed from the grocery store or the hardware store (like Home Depot for those of you who don't have real hardware stores in your town anymore). Place in a cup of dirt and put in a sunny window. Water and watch it sprout. Then when the ice is over (or you think the ice is over) put out in the garden and watch it take off. Of course you have to have really bad weather like we did this past summer-- wet, cold, cloudy and make sure you have a red puppy to dig up the plants so they can be replanted not once but twice (!) in one season. Then you too can have cabbage like this!

I usually boil the cabbage with lots of onions and a sprinkling of fennel seeds. The seeds taste a little like licorice, which I don't really care for. But somehow it works with cabbage. Of course I tell the kids that the seeds are really bugs that just "came-out-of-the-cabbage-while-it-was-cooking" and that they just need to eat the vegetable anyway because that's what the pioneers would do. They used to believe me and slowly eat the cabbage in horror. But now they don't......believe me that is. They still sometimes eat the cabbage with horror.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Summer with every bite.

As I break up another flake of grass hay into each of the bunny cages, the smell of fresh hay permeates the entire coop. It's the aroma of summer. For a short time, I am transported back to July when this hay was harvested. I can feel warm breezes on my face and the sun on my back.
Hmmmm. Summer. Living in the present.

Winter Hurts

It's been really cold here the last couple of weeks.....highs in the single digits and lows with minus signs.

I don't mind the cold weather. Actually, I love the cold weather. I just love weather in general. (I got that from my dad , too, along with my particular shade of brown eyes.) I think it’s because I was brought up in a part of the country that didn’t experience very cold winters. Now it means that our lives are lived a little differently between November and March. Our chores, though smaller in number, take a little longer- just getting ready to go out takes longer.

Armed in bulky down coats, wool socks and heavy felt lined snow boots I go out to feed and water the masses. I don't wear gloves, not even the fingerless kind. They seem to get in the way. When the temperatures are real low, you must make sure that every molecule of dampness is off your hands before going into the coop or the skin of one's fingers gets "froze stuck" on all sorts of places: rabbit cages, rabbit waterers, coop door (I could swear that one time when the wind was blowing a gale, my fingers even stuck to the wood! Well, maybe it was just my imagination.) The cold kind of plays with your emotions too. The cold hurts. Every time you bump you bare skin on things while choring, it seems to hurt more. But honestly, I really don't mind. I like knowing the animals are well cared for and in time, when it warms a bit, they'll begin laying eggs again. Any we'll be in the bounty of Spring. In the mean time, I feed and water and dream of fresh eggs and rabbit babies.

And this is the welcome I receive-----

Puffed up chickens who can't be bothered to venture down until the smorgasbord has been placed by the lowly, human servant. Of course I comply. I am after all, a human servant.

Monday, January 3, 2011

How to make Bread

I'm in love with baking bread (don't tell my mountain boy.....actually- he already knows). Fresh bread from the oven is truly heaven. Baking bread is one of those skills that my sweet daughter told me she has to learn how to do before she gets married or goes out on her own. I'm happy to comply. And as you can tell from the 100's of responses to the recent post I wrote about baking bread (not!) others are wanting to bake bread too but either don't know how or think it takes too much time. I usually bake bread when I'm doing other things at home (like cleaning house- BLECK or running errands around town. I'll run an errand and come home and complete a step. Then run out get the idea.) There are lots of bread recipes out there but this one only uses basic ingredients that most people already have in their pantry. (Well, except for the packet of yeast. Not everybody has yeast just laying around in the pantry. So go get some at the store. It only costs a few cents. Go right now. The bread is WORTH IT!!!).

The recipe goes like this:

3 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast (1 packet)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
7 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, gently mix the water, yeast, sugar, and salt. Let sit five minutes. Stir in only three cups of flour with a heavy spoon or mixer. Add the next cup of flour a little at a time, stirring until dough becomes too stiff to continue stirring easily with a spoon. If you are using a heavy mixer (like my most wonderful KitchenAid) I would suggest adding all the flour at once and push the dough down when it crawls up the dough hook. (Please use the dough hook. Don't be afraid. It's supposed to look like something out of Peter Pan.) I sometimes even oil the hook so the dough doesn't crawl as much. Add a little more flour and begin kneading. Continue adding flour and kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. If using a KitchenAid I just allow the hook to knead the dough until it's all balled up and the dough has cleaned up the sides of the bowel (oops. Did I just write "bowel"? Oh my goodness. It's the nurse coming out of me. I meant to write "bowl". I used to get those two mixed up in nursing school all the time.) Let dough rise in a greased, covered bowl for about an hour or until doubled. Uncover bowl; sprinkle in a little more flour and knead again then divide in half. With floured hands, shape dough into loaves and place in two greased loaf pans. Cover loaf pans. Let rise for about an hour. By this time the raw dough will be beautiful and tall and look like a pale loaf ready for the oven. Bake for 25 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. (I even sometimes put the loaf pans of risen dough into the oven as it preheats. It seems to keep the loaves from collapsing in the coolness of my kitchen while waiting for the oven to warm.) Makes two loaves.

Then while the bread is hot and steamy, cut a piece (or snatch a handful) and slather with butter. Only real butter will do. Nothing fake or chemically like margarine should touch the goodness of bread straight from the oven, good bread made with mother (or sister or aunt) love built right into the loaf. Chew with relish and let that good stuff nourish your body. And soul.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's a Southern tradition to eat black eyed peas on New Year's day for good luck the rest of the year. Actually..... I don't know if it's a Southern tradition or a Northern tradition or just a tradition in general. My mom's from Chicago so we were kind of mixed up about which tradition came from where when growing up.......
But, in keeping with tradition, from where-ever..... we are having black eyed peas for supper tonight. (Actually, don't look too closely. These are not black eyed peas. I didn't have any black eyes in the pantry so we are having Navy beans. I didn't want to make a 12 mile trip, one way, to the store for a stinking pound of black eyed peas. So if you just squint your eyes and use your imagination, they look a little spotted.)

OK, this is how we have beans for supper:
Dump a bag or two of beans into the crock pot.
Add a couple of stalks of celery (I used some home grown that was dehydrated during the summer when the sun was high and never setting.......oh how I miss the sun. But I digress.....) and some chopped onions. (I usually go overboard with onions. I can't get enough of them. I get this small, ummm, peculiarity, from my dad. He loved onions with every meal in every form. Somehow I inherited this love from him..... along with the color of his eyes. Weird.)
And some type of pork. The brownish islands you see floating in this picture are actually smoked ham hocks that we got with the pig that we just put in the freezer. The hocks were smoked with the bacon and hams and we got several packages of them. But if you don't have a pig that you just put in your freezer, you can actually buy ham hocks at the store. Or you can use a bone from a ham. Or if you don't have a ham bone, you can use several pieces of bacon. Throw all into the crock pot and cover with water. Place the crock on low for the longest time allowed. My crock pot will rock for many hours, but I chose 10 hours on low.

So now your only job is to make sure the crock pot doesn't run out of water. Or the smell of burning beans will stay in your house and nose for an eternity.....or longer.

When the beans are soft when poked with a fork, they are done! Some times I take a potato masher and squish the whole pot a couple of times. This seems to make the beans creamier. This might be my imagination, however.

Speaking of smells---- remember, these are beans. And unless a person (or family) are used to eating beans, the small orbs have a tendency to produce an abundance of gaseous fumes that are an amazement to behold. Especially by a houseful of boys. And since it is a well-known fact that girls don't pass gas, my sweet daughter and I might have to take refuge in another space, at least until the air clears.

You have been warned.

Life is a verb.

The first day started with a crack. I got up before dawn and put a pot of coffee on to perk. It's still Christmas break so the house is absolutely still with sleeping kids and a red puppy. I had been lying awake for several hours thinking about the future of this farm, future of our community and country. That sounds sanctimonious on my part but it's really selfish. I just don't want to waste any more time. I have the feeling that I have been sleepwalking and I don't want to do that. There's so much to accomplish- not just tasks---life. Many people are depending on me- starting with the people under this very roof. The mountain boy and I have a great job ahead of us which began with the birth of our first child. Great as in "distinguished", "celebrated", "remarkable", "noble", "grand". Our job is to form these children into productive adults. But that's really too small. I want more for them. Our mission should be that our kids strive to affect others for good. I want them to seek out opportunity to do good. Purposeful living.

To start all that I need to be more deliberate in my life: real food not just something that fills the stomachs of the masses; real activity not just sitting in front of the TV watching other's adventures; enlarging thought with solid literature not inconsequential words on a page; deepen relationships with time spent together; work that has meaning, value.

So here's my small but heavy list of goals for 2011.
Actually forget that. Instead of writing my list, I'm going to act on it.

I'm going to grab up each of my kids and give them a gigantic smooch! (They'll love that....."Mom, stop it!") Then when the mountain boy comes home I'm going to grab him too and give him a kiss he'll remember for a long time- maybe even at the airport in front of all those people!

I'm going to stop right now and get some bread started for this week’s worth of school lunches. Then I'm going to get breakfast cooking with locally grown bacon and eggs from our chickens and homemade huckleberry pancakes.

I'm going to look through the seed catalogues with the purpose of finding vegetables that can sustain the garden for many years not just one (IE open pollinated plants not hybrids). And I'm going to call a good gardening friend to brainstorm on ways we can make our gardens more productive.

I'm NOT turning the TV on (until the TCU game later.....heck I might be living in Montana but I'm still a Texan!).

And I'm going to go to bed before 10 pm to read! No more falling asleep on the couch at night because the-mountain-boy-is-not-home-and-there's-no-real-reason-to-go-to-bed. I have to get more sleep.

These are my plans for living as a verb.
And it all seems to start with this farm.
Our small piece of dirt.
It's going to teach us great things this year.

What are your plans for living large in 2011?