Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Romancing the Hen

While Miss Ellie and I were doing the chores the other morning, she exclaimed, "Look, Aunt Teri! I found eggs!" I wondered how she would react when I explained to her that those weren't eggs in the nest box, but colossal chicken poos; then I looked up from filling the chicken waterer and saw to my surprise that there really were eggs in the nest box. Two beautiful big brown eggs.

It's been some time since we've had fresh eggs around these parts.

Why, I wondered, did we suddenly have eggs again? Why, when Lone Hen had not laid an egg since she planted her fluffy feathered bottom on our farm lo those many months ago, is she suddenly laying eggs? Could it be that the new man in her life has inspired her? Does Rooster Boy have Lone Hen's biological clock a tickin'?

It turns out that Lone Hen hasn't been holding out on me all these months. She's been holding out for love.

You go, girl. (And, Rooster Boy, whatever you're doing, you keep it up, fella!)

Love from the farm,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Our Favorite Restaurant

Mike and I don't have a song, but we do have a favorite restaurant. It's Dara Thai in Flagstaff, Ariz. Dara Thai was the first foray into Thai food for both of us - there may be many other finer Thai food restaurants out there, but you'd be hard pressed to convince us of it.

Dara Thai is our favorite for the food, but also because Flagstaff is special to us - it's where we met and fell in love and got married - all within six months. In fact, I have this corny habit of driving down Milton Road with the kids in the car and sighing loudly as we pass the bar where we used to play pool and the restaurant where we had our first date, and saying, "Oh, I love Flagstaff. This is where your Dad and I fell in love," in this mooney, sentimental voice. And the kids roll their eyes when I get misty eyed. Good grief.

Ok, but those aren't the most important reasons why Dara Thai is our favorite restaurant.

Here's why:

When Macy Lee was just 7 days old, Mike and I bundled her little 6-lbs-and-change body up and took her along with us to dinner at Dara Thai. We ate our dinner - our first date after a very long 2 years of being pregnant (I'll explain that one later) - and Macy quietly and slowly moved her head from side to side, taking in the dim surroundings with her huge, deep blue eyes.

As we got up to leave, so did the party next to us. There was an older, conservative looking couple and a 20-something guy with blond Rastafarian hair and all natural, cotton crinkly shirt and pants. All 3 of them shared the same kind, crinkly eyes and warm smiles, so I figured at once that in spite of the different styles of dress, they were father, mother and son.

They all paused to look into the carrier at Macy as we walked by, and the son asked, "How old?" We said she was 7 days old. Not one week - just 7 days. I'll never forget the look of wonder that came into his eyes and the hush of his voice as he looked directly into Macy's eyes and quietly said, "Welcome to the world, Little One."

You know those reverent moments, when the very air is gauzy and you almost don't dare breathe because you don't want to break the spell? This was one. All 5 of us adults just stood there and looked down at that sweet little bundle, enthralled. Then we looked up at each other, smiled and nodded, and Mike and I headed toward the door, as the older man helped his wife into her coat.

It's the "tell me a story" that Macy asks us to tell her, over and over.

And, it's why Dara Thai is "our" restaurant. Go there sometime. It's not fancy, but it sure is special. At least it is to us.

Dara Thai
14 S. San Francisco Street
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
(928) 774-0047

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cheep Thrills

Around our little farm, you'd never know we're embarking on what's supposed to be Storm Week in northern Arizona. Oh, we've had warnings of winter storms for days now, with promise that all of the north land will be blanketed in winter white as the week progresses. (Except us - we may get some flurries but most of our action will be rain.)

On our farm, though, we're seeing signs of spring. And hearing signs, too. It's the "peep, peep, peep"ing coming from the pantry area that has us looking forward to green blades of grass and dying Easter eggs. See, our spring chicks came early this year, courtesy of my cousin and her husband, who incubated a batch of eggs over the past few weeks, resulting in 20 fluffy hatchlings making their way into the world in the midst of these chilly winter days. The cousins kept 3 and let us take home the other 17.

So, we have a deep wooden box of skittering black and yellow fluffy Peeps in our mud room, basking in the glow of the heat lamp and, blissfully, emitting very little odor. So far.

Lest you think we're simply raising the next batch of coyote bait, I should tell you that the plans for finishing the enclosed chicken run are underway, so we've even gone so far as to begin naming these little critters, with hope that they'll be living with us a good long time.

Our poultry joy isn't limited to the little cheepers, though. The day of the great turkey and rooster slaughter we brought a beautiful rooster home with us, who we've had stashed in the coop for a few weeks, keeping him safe from coyotes and stifling his urge to fly away.

Evening before last we decided we'd introduce him to our Lone Hen, who sleeps in the dog's pen and talks to us throughout the day as she wanders the yard. We herded Lone Hen down to the coop, put her inside, latched the door, then cupped our hands around our eyes to peer through the screen to see how they got along.

Umm, they got along just fine.

In fact, it took about 7 seconds after the door was shut and Lone Hen said a tentative hello for Rooster Boy to hop right on top of Lone Hen and show her why her mama made her.

And so the chicken love continues on the As-Yet-Unnamed Farm.

Love from the farm,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Today In History

This morning, I lifted my head from my pillow and looked out the window to see gloomy grey skies. "We better get down to the river and cut those cedar branches so we have hope of getting the fence fixed before the weather turns," I thought.

Excuse me. Who thinks statements like that, in this day and age?

Surely that statement should have been drawled circa 1904 by a dusty rancher warming his hands around a steaming cup of coffee, squinting a little as he gazed out over the plains through the kitchen window before looking back over his shoulder at the sleepy, strapping boy sitting at the kitchen table who was trying to smooth down his hair with his hands before his aproned mother carried the hot gravy over from the wood cook stove?

Just for fun, I checked my activities from this day two years ago, when I was still a busy PR consultant. Here's what I was juggling that day:
  • Helping a group of clients select a political consultant to help them with a home rule issue
  • Working with three reporters on stories related to a pet rescue event, redevelopment plans for a commercial property, and publicity for a walk/run benefiting kids with life-limiting illness
  • Coordinating with Game & Fish on a mule deer study
  • Discussing our agency's intern duties
  • Helping an editor find a masterplanned community to feature when a planned profile fell through for the newspaper at the last minute

I'd wager I didn't get rained on at work that day in history, nor was I likely wearing a denim shirt with quilted lining while ticking my way down my task list for the day. And while I thoroughly enjoyed my work, I'm also certain I didn't end the day proud of the twinges in my shoulders, back and hands that signalled I'd put a little muscle in to my day and earned every ache and pain.

Of course, I probably didn't come home with twigs in my hair that day, either. It's all a trade off.

Love from the farm,


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Simple Pleasures...Gone Too Far

Sunday afternoon, Mike and I bundled up the kids, threw the dogs in the back of the truck, then the kids crawled in after them, and we headed off to go "toolie hopping" - country speak for "exploring the countryside." After considering our various toolie locations, we settled on taking the back road to Woodruff.

We bumped along the dirt road for some time until we pulled off to explore a wash. Turns out, it was the same wash where Grandma and Grandpa Fraley had stashed a geocache for Tanner several years ago, and the kids were delighted when they found the cache and began rummaging through it to see what had been left in the box in the years since it had been stuck under a rock near the wash. Reading the enclosed journal, Adam learned one of his friends found the cache in 2007 with her dad. Her dad died in an accident last spring, so Adam was looking forward to the chance to remind her of what was probably their own fun family time not so long ago.

Off we all went down the wash, skating on little slabs of ice, exploring crevasses in the rock, wending our way to the Little Colorado River bed, finding shells on the rocks, following various animal tracks. Mike and I climbed up to the ridge above the wash and watched the kids goofing around, and commented that it was nice that our kids thoroughly enjoyed these simple little outings - no fancy destinations or big entry fees. Just knockin' around the high desert. I said it was nice that there wasn't some sullen kid with their earphones in, rolling their eyes because they were way above this nonsense. We're glad these kids enjoy the simple pleasures.

Flash to last night, while the kids were doing the dishes. Adam mentioned he'd found a carton of eggs in the fridge (this was noteworthy because we'd needed eggs over the weekend for a recipe but he didn't see them then.)

"Don't use those," I said. "I don't know how long they've been in there. I picked up fresh ones today."

His eyes lit up. "Hey, then can we throw the eggs at each other?" Something on my face must have revealed my revulsion at the thought.

Mistaking my expression for a concern over thrift and frugality and wasting the eggs he amended, "If we have the egg fight in the garden [where the eggs could be used for composting], then would it be ok?" All the kids joined in, pleading; a few were jumping up and down at the prospect.

"Oh, then ok," I replied out loud. As I turned to walk away, I silently added, "Ya big freaks."

Maybe we better plan a trip to the Valley for a zoo visit or ball game soon. I fear the kids are becoming just a little too easy to please. By the way, I haven't warned them yet about the pain potential in a raw egg fight. I'm deciding whether I should let it be one of life's little lessons. We'll see.

Love from the farm,

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Family Night

Monday night is family night, and this past Monday was amazing. Yes, we had our Family Home Evening, with scripture, song, prayer and snack. It was a great one, actually - for the 1st time, our family set goals for the New Year - and they were doozies: As a family, help Adam prepare for his mission this fall...read the entire Bible - Old and New Testaments...go on a family summer road trip...and others.

We had fun discussing what goals are, the difference between short- and long-term goals, how we'll stay on track to achieving our goals, and we all left with the assignment of determining at least one and, preferably, no more than 3 personal goals that we'll discuss at our next Family Home Evening. Very fun stuff.

It was also neat to begin reading in Genesis - the first time we've tackled the Bible since all the kiddos have been old enough to read. We've never read it all the way through, and we've never had such deep and insightful discussions and questions. "But, who was before God?" Oh, I remember losing sleep over that one. That's not to say we were able to answer all the questions; I'm just acknowledging the deep doctrine began to be plumbed. We even had that occasional terrible, irreverent but excruciatingly funny closing prayer when Mike asked Tanner to be sure to include a blessing on the snack as part of his prayer. Somehow, the words, "We are grateful for the cantaloupe. Please bless it," struck us all has hysterical and we all fell into a fit of giggles, and Tanner nearly gave up on finishing the prayer. It seems like Heavenly Father should understand we really were earnest, but it was just funny and we couldn't help laughing.

It was a really nice family night, but it wasn't just what happened during Family Home Evening that made it so. It was also what came before. When, for some reason, we all found ourselves lounging in Mike's and my bedroom, which was probably the original family's living room - a long room with our bed at one end and a fireplace at the other. The boys were on the futon in front of the fire, reading. Mike was on the love seat next to the bed looking at seed catalogs with Karlie and ribbing her mercilessly, as usual; with her getting a few well-placed jabs in, too, as usual. I was laying on my bed, curled around Macy who was using me as a back rest, as she worked on her homework.

I lay there quietly watching her write her vocabulary words, watching how she formed her letters, noting her quick, dashing motions that are quintessential Macy: she can't be bothered with neatness and precision when her mind is off and running to the next big idea. She seemed almost impatient when she had to stop her forward motion to go back and cross a "t" or dot a "j." Her body was so still, except for her flashing pencil and her intent eyes. I wondered at how she could be in this elegant repose that she unconsciously assumes, while so earnestly engaged in the task at hand. She's wonderful.

I was mesmerized by her writing and dotting and crossing, then was shaken from my reverie by Adam's chuckle over a book. I looked around and thought, "Here we all are." Naturally. Unconsciously. We could have each been in our own spaces, doing our own things; instead, we all were in one warmly lit room of the house, content to just be near one another.

I love the love we have for one another and the fact that given a choice, we choose each other.

I was given a blessing once that promised I would marvel at the joy that we would have in our children and be in awe of the love in our home.

I do marvel, and I am in awe. And I am so grateful.

Love from the farm,

The Promised Christmas Mystery Tale

It was on Christmas Day that I promised to share our very own Christmas mystery tale, but I was derailed by the great turkey slaughter. I am breathing and eating normally again and the involuntary shudders have abated. I can now share the Christmas tale.

'Twas the night before Christmas and on McLaws Road.....

Nope, sorry, I'm not adept enough at literary adaptations to tell this story in the verse and rhyme of that familiar prose. I'll just give it to you straight.

Mike and I were up late Christmas Eve, as parents often are. In fact, it was the wee hours of Christmas morning before we crawled into bed - about 1:30 a.m. or so. After a wonderfully exhausting Christmas Eve with family, we fell quickly off to sleep.

At 2:21 a.m. I was awakened by the soft tinkling of a bell. I startled, because in spite of the many childhood (and grown up) years of wishing to hear sleigh bells, I never, ever had. I leaped out of bed and padded to the dining room, which is really the entry to the house, and saw that Santa had already arrived. The stockings were stuffed and laying on the table (odd location), the presents were crammed under the tree. While I was tempted to snoop, I did not, believing the 1st glimpse of Santa treasures should be enjoyed by the kiddos in a few hours. I looked to the table one more time and noted the jingle bells knitted to the toes of Adam's and Tanner's stockings. "Hmmm," I thought. "That faint jingle sure sounded like the jingle I recognize from the boys' stockings."

I tottered back to bed and waited for sleep to come. Just as I was drifting off, I heard the soft jangling again and immediately the image came to mind of our beagle-esque dog Mia standing proud as punch on the table top rooting through one of the stockings for the chocolate that Santa surely left. For the 2nd time within in an hour (and, let's face it, probably the 2nd time in the last 25 years), I leapt from bed, this time in terror because Mia is a vomiting dog on the best of days; I surely didn't want her tanking on chocolate and ruining Christmas by up and dying on us. I returned to the dining room and found everything exactly as I'd left it not a half hour before. I looked around for a possible culprit and went back to bed.

I lay there tense and expectant - I knew I didn't imagine the tinkling bell. I don't imagine things (when outside the grip of a particularly entertaining migraine, that is). What could be making that....? There it was again - the tinkling. Just as I cottoned on to the obvious answer and the thought was forming in my head, "Crap! Is it a MOUSE in the stocking? I haven't seen evidence of a mouse since last year...how did a MOUSE find the stockings already?", suddenly, a crashing, clattering thumping shook the walls.

Now, I'd had it -- that was IT!! THAT was no mouse! What the heck was going on?!? I knew that Santa was long gone - I mean, why on earth would he have been lingering on our roof after he'd already dumped the goods? Was Adam trying to psyche us out by playing Santa? Didn't he know his little sisters were firmly in dancing sugarplums territory by this time? With all this running through my head, I shook Mike awake and hollered something at him about someone or something being on the roof.

He grumbled awake just as I thought I heard that faint tinkling again, followed by a "Whummpp!!", again rattling the wall. Sitting up and focusing my senses, I could tell the rattling was the front of the house, not the roof.

Just as Mike leapt out of bed (we had lots of leaping in our life suddenly, truly a disconcerting notion when you're our age) and I shot out from under the covers one last time, it started to dawn on me.

And then I knew. Well, I suspected. And a quick glance out the front window confirmed it.

It was Gertie, the Christmas Goat.

Only, I don't think she was full of good cheer. She looked a little peeved. In fact, I'm fairly certain that her bleak little expressionless face was conveying something along the lines of, "Yo, Dilberts, it's stinkin' cold out here! What the crap kind of Christmas is this? You guys go off for the night, come home visibly fatter, stoke your little fires, crank your little heaters and trundle off to your nice warm beds while I'm stuck out here with these poopin' turkeys, who, excuse me, sleep in their own dung!! Explain to me just what the heck there is to ho, ho, ho about right about now. Oh, I'm sorry - I see you there....whassamatter, did I disturb your slumber? Did I roll you out of your toasty little bed and you had to pitter patter across the chilly cement floor to peer out at the source of the disturbance? Oh, I'm sorry - hate to bug you while I'm FREEZING my furless buns off out here. Yeah, excuse me for fogging up the window there!"

Really, Gertie, where's your Christmas spirit?

Not that I said that to her. Frankly, I was a little rattled by the scalding tongue-lashing so I hurriedly ducked my head behind the door and out of view and turned off the porch light. And then, on Christmas Day, before we left for another day of revelry at Grandma and Grandpa's, Mike rigged a nice, toasty warming lamp on the front porch for Gertie and the turkeys. And we avoided eye contact for a few days, so as not to awaken the sleeping dragon behind those mysterious amber eyes.

And that was our Merry Christmas tale.

Next year, ear plugs.

Love from the farm,

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I Have Flunked Farmer

I have been traumatized and may never be able to eat or write again.

I've tried to write about my present horror twice already this evening and I simply can't. I can't relive the images in my mind, I can't overcome the quease in my tummy, and I can't find the words to adequately describe how I'm feeling. All I can tell you is:

  • This sorry state of affairs involves the turkeys that used to roam our farm, and 12 roosters.

  • No one should ever have to wash a turkey in a bathtub because the creature is too big to fit in a sink.

  • A turkey should not weigh 37.8 pounds.

  • A portion of a turkey neck should not weigh more than one pound.

  • A pressure-cooked rooster should not forever ruin the savory aroma of rosemary for a person.

  • One's 11-yr-old daughter should not delight in a headless rooster flopping around on the ground and should absolutely not command the poor dead rooster to "jump higher!"

  • The poor dead rooster should not comply to such a tactless command. It shouldn't...it really, really shouldn't. Dear Heavenly Father, could you please tell me why, oh why, dead roosters are capable of leaping on command?

  • Finally, one should not find out that one is in fact NOT an unflappable, sturdy farm woman, but is instead an easily traumatized, urpy wuss as a result of one, 3-hr experience on a bright, shiny, sunny winter's day.

Because I can't bring myself to write (or eat) after today's shenanigans, I'm just going to leave you with the below image of our little farm the morning after the first snowfall of the season this year (which occurred in October, but given the frigid weather, is still timely).

Yes, those are my garden remnants you see poking up in the foreground - guess who didn't till under the garden in the fall?

Between my untilled winter garden and my squeamish response to today's carnage, it's official:

I have flunked farmer.

I hope spring will bring the renewal of my farming spirit. And the ability to put food in my mouth once again. And, I hope I can close my eyes tonight without seeing a replay of all the sights and sensations of this afternoon's gut fest.

Love from the farm,