Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sistah Friend

Most of you know that I'm part of a matched set.

My parents, who both came from large families, (Dad 1 of 12 Kentucky born; Mom, 1 of 7 kids raised in the logging, fishing and agriculture environs of Idaho) opted to have 2 kids. Just 2. Just me and Lynda, my sister, who is 19 months older than me.

Now that we're adults, everyone thinks I'm older because I have 4 kids and she has 1; and because my oldest is going on 20 and 6-foot-2, and her little one is 5 and almost up to your hip. Lynda is shamelessly exploitive of this misperception, by the way. She perpetuates it. She lies and says she is younger. She gloats. I hate when she gloats. And I'm at a loss to understand how, just because of my being an early achiever, a get-down-to-brass-tacks kinda gal who grew up, got married in college (good grief) and got straight to the kid producing, that somehow I'm being punished for my expeditiousness. Oh, well, she'll get hers. She'll be 55 when Ellie graduates from high school. Ha. Ha. Ha.

But, I've skipped ahead. Let me back up. My earliest memories are of Lynda and me growing up on the Lake Erie shore. Feeding stale popcorn to the seagulls in the winter. (She doesn't remember doing this.) Burying the dead fish that washed up on the shore. (She doesn't remember this either.) The neighbors riding by on their tandem bicycle with funny little elf shoes with curled up toes. (She also claims not to remember the elf shoes. I can't account for her dreadful memory. Must be age.) Playing in the woods across the street from our house, where I uttered my first cuss word (I was 6; it was the "d" word and she threatened to tell Mom, but promised she wouldn't if I would go wash my mouth out with soap. Oh, I ran for the house and shoved that big bar of soap in my mouth gratefully, gratefully praising Lynda's mercy for not telling on me.) Washing Dad's grey Nova in our swimsuits. Piling leaves and jumping in them. Walking to the candy store on Saturday mornings. Fighting over whose turn it was to turn off the light in our room at night. Fighting over whose turn it was to use the record player. Going to see Donny and Marie. Hating it when she made us watch the Mike Douglas Show. (I mean, really. Mike Douglas?! She was 8, not 80.)

Lynda and I began performing together at an early age. We choreographed back up dances to our friend who would impersonate Elvis. (While Elvis was still alive, mind you.) Oh, the choreography was divine, complete with springing from closets with fantastic foreword somersaults ending in energetic jumps with arms splayed, legs split high, then dropping to the floor and executing the oh, so graceful bicycle move. Picture it: we would prop our hips on our hands, elbows balancing us with our shoulders pressed to the floor and bicycling energetically while J.D. (aka Elvis), sang along to "Blue Suede Shoes." Then, we'd sway and spin expressively as we slowed it down for a rousing, sorrowful rendition of "In the Ghetto," which I couldn't help but sing along to, full-voiced, with J.D./Elvis, in spite of being a background singer/dancer. When you feel it, you just can't hold back.

Lyn and I had our big group productions, then we had the small skits that just the two of us would put on. At Easter one year, we donned our dance leotards and tights and cut out cardboard bunny ears to attach to our swimming caps, then we taped wads of cotton balls to our hineys. Actually, there were only enough cotton balls for one respectable bunny tail, so I was chosen to wear it. Which means the person immortalized in the cotton ball butt photo is yours truly. Kodak gold, that's what that is.

I don't remember what the content of the Easter skit was, but the costuming was fabulous. We would charge Mom and Dad a dime to enter our room to watch our productions, where we would serve watered down Kool Aid and stale crescent rolls leftover from dinner. Food they had bought, mind you. But it didn't matter. It was art, and art comes with a price.

At night, like every other American child, we'd sneak flashlights under our blankets and read after we'd been told to go to bed, then tremble in fear when we'd hear Dad coming down the hall, because he had had to call out to us to quit giggling one too many times and we knew we had it coming. Not that "it" was usually anything more than that awful, stern look Dad could give that I swear would make you think you were going to wet your pants.

He did try spanking us a few times over the years, but that didn't work out so well. Primarily because my response to fear is nervous laughter that sounds an awful lot like regular laughter, and that doesn't go over real well with a dad that's already good and mad. Poor Lynda. We'd hear Dad coming down the hall after already having warned us that a spanking was going to be the punishment for the umpty-ump times he'd told us to be quiet and go to sleep, and I'd start giggling. Lynda would plead with me to stop laughing because it was just going to make Dad madder, but I couldn't help myself. Even as he'd spank her, I'd be laughing. I'd bury my face in my pillow and try to stop the shaking while he made his way over to my bed to give me a swat or two, and I tried as hard as I could to keep him from knowing that I was laughing my head off.

Finally, it'd be over and Lynda would be looking at me with confusion and anger and betrayal, tears streaming down her face after Dad left the room, and I'd be helplessly shaking in my bed, having flipped over onto my back, and clamping both hands over my mouth working so hard to keep my gales of laughter silent until Dad was far enough back down the hall that he wouldn't hear me. Oh, Lynda wanted to kill me.

That wasn't the only time I laughed inappropriately when Lynda was in distress. The last time I remember doing it at a really inappropriate moment, there were far more witnesses and it wasn't Lynda staring at me like I was nuts. She would have, I'm sure, but couldn't because she was unconscious. See, a whole group of friends and our church youth group had gone to Snowflake to the roller rink to do that rollerskating/ dance thing that was all the rage in the mid-80s. There was a fast song and a big group of kids linked hands and had one of those long snakes going, and Lynda was at the tail end. Well, that snake came whipping around one end of the rink and somehow Lynda broke free, but the velocity was so great that she found herself rolling out of control towards a bank of video games lining the rink and there was nothing to stop her from crashing headlong into those games and slamming to the floor unconscious. I, who wasn't part of the snake, came skating up just as she bounced back off the big black video game and was horrified as I heard her head smack the concrete rink; so of course, I did what any horrified sister would do in such a situation.

I began laughing uncontrollably.

And the friends standing in a circle around Lynda, and those kneeling next to her, cradling her head, trying to bring her around, all looked over at me with the same look of incredulity and disgust -- the very expression that every 12-year-old girl hopes to elicit from a group of 15 or so older kids that she had been desperately trying to impress roughly 24 hours of every day of every week prior to this night. It was my shining moment. (Lynda was fine, by the way. Probably had a mild concussion, but since no grown up witnessed the fall, Lynda and the rest of us weren't willing to let a little thing like a possible brain injury cut the night short.)

I can't explain why I always laughed at inappropriate times and I felt so bad that it caused Lynda so much consternation, but I couldn't help it. Unfortunately, I still can't. I am mortified when something serious is going on and I get a fit of giggles. What is that? And why on earth have I not been able to master it, yet?? I heard a spunky 70-year-old woman admit in church this morning that she still had some growing up to do; oh, I'm right there with you, sistah.

Lynda and I were each other's built-in friends when we moved from Ohio to Arizona the year or so after Elvis and our Grandpa Fraley died. We had each other, so it kept worry about whether we'd make friends in our new life a less anxious prospect than it might otherwise have been. We had many good years, exploring the Arizona high desert together.

Of course, eventually we became teenagers, so that meant we had to start resenting each other over boyfriends, intrusion on each other's time with friends, and other silly things that those gross early teen years amplify. We mostly left each other alone and led separate lives while getting along OK during high school, and that was fine.

My going off to college was a lot less anxiety-ridden than Lyn's experience because she'd already been there a year by the time I showed up, so she had the 411, which made my first year away from home a piece of cake.

At some point, I'll probably go into the amazing aunt she's been to my kiddos, the adventures we've had as adults and the great friendship we now share, still riddled with all of my bratty little sister tendencies that must annoy her to no end, but a great friendship all the same. But I'll go into that another time.

What I will say now, though, is that during times of trial, we pull together, and we become ever more attuned to one another. And, boy, am I attuned to her right now. Lately, I resist the urge to call her up constantly and text her constantly to see how she's doing or regale her with some stupid anecdote. (Oh, Lyn, trust me, I've been exercising restraint. It could be so much worse.)

I'm especially attuned to her right now because we'll be heading to the Valley with Mom in 2 weeks for a little shopping, dining and surgery to remove Lynda's cancerous thyroid.

Frankly, we weren't all that surprised to find out Lyn has cancer. We all knew something was going on, and it had been taking awhile to figure it out, but we all 3 knew that Lyn needed to keep at it until we got to the bottom of her illnesses. Mom rather prophetically pronounced in January that she felt like this was going to be an important year for our family, and we all felt she was right. We didn't feel like it was going to be tragic, just important. Now we understand why.

It's reassuring that collectively, the 3 of us feel peaceful about the whole thing, like everything is going to be just fine. We're hearing a lot of "If you gotta have cancer, thyroid's the one to have...." and have talked with so many thyroid cancer survivors and friends and families of thyroid cancer survivors, that our peace feels well founded.

But I'm also feeling fiercely protective of Lyn through the whole thing - I am grateful for the peace, I know she'll be OK, but it doesn't alter the fact that the disease has already made her feel lousy, she's still going to be going through surgery and radiation, and as good as we feel about it, I don't expect we'll breathe completely freely until we're on the other side of this and get the "no evidence of disease" pronouncement.

I am so grateful, though, for a Heavenly Father who grants peace. And grants sisterly relationships, which means Lyn can say things like, "Hey, you HAVE to go out to the car and get that book for me...I have cancer," or, "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeze will you go get me a soda? I have cancer." And I can say things like, "Hey, if you die, can I have your jewelry?" only because I know she's going to be just fine. Well, actually, knowing us, we'd be saying these inappropriate things even if we knew one of us had one foot in the grave. (Just not in front of Dad, because I bet after 35 years, he could still muster "the look" if he had to.)

The thing is, Lyn's not crying in fear, and I'm not giggling nervously, so I'm sure we'll get through this threatening little episode just fine. But you can bet, during that 3 days that she's glowing from the radiation pill she'll be taking, we'll both be filing away all of the terribly inappropriate jokes we can muster to share as soon as it's safe to be in the same room together.

Who am I kidding? We'll be hollering them through the door while she's quarantined.

We're sisters. That's just how we roll.

Love from the farm,

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Here's A Revelation

Want a revelation? I have one for you, right here.

Sweet potatoes with agave nectar.

Excuse me. It's fantastic. I've just discovered it and it's fantastic. Now before all you Southern folk flee for the exits, just bear with me. Shhhhh. Trust me. It's worth it to hang in here for a minute.

It all started when I realized last night that I'd run out of brown sugar. Which, for the record, hasn't occurred since roughly 1991. I'd already baked the sweet potatoes. What was I going to do? White sugar? How. Could. I. I couldn't. It would have been sacrilege.

I stood there in my kitchen, dejected, staring at my 'tater. Wondering what to do. Then, I spied the oldest kid, Adam, drizzling agave nectar over his as he stood next to me with his 'tater. Being much younger and not having the benefit of 41 years of yams with brown sugar, he didn't realize the atrocity he was committing. (You can't be relegated to purgatory in innocence, right?) I stared at his plate, mute with disbelief. That couldn't possibly taste good...could it?

Suddenly I flashed to a recent conversation with my friend Corrine who said that she detested brown sugar on a sweet potato, because it masked the flavor of the sweet potato, which was already plenty sweet. "Oh, bless your little pointed head," I thought to myself. She obviously just didn't appreciate the wonders of brown sugared 'taters, that's all there was to it.

There are wonders, and then there are revelations.
What we're talking about here are revelations.

Following Adam's culinary cue (which I'm becoming convinced is generally a wise thing to do; the kid's got instincts) I drizzled a little agave nectar for myself. Then I worked in some butter, a bit of cinnamon and a dash of cloves and nutmeg. I mixed it all together and sat down on the couch with it. And it's a darn good thing I did because the couch kept the swooning from being a painful crash to the floor.
Who knew the salty of the butter with the mildly sweet of the sweet potato and nectar could result in such an amazing burst of flavors? Can I tell you how sad I am that I don't have anymore 'taters to indulge in today? Can I tell you how sad I am that Tanner's only 13 so I can't send him to town to buy more?

That sweet potato was my dinner, in total, last night. Well, that one and the half of the other small one that I split with Adam, who was similarly enraptured by our little orange friends.
I'm telling you, go get yourself some yams or sweet potatoes or whatever you want to call 'em (yes, I know they're different. It's just occurred to me that it was actually yams we ate and I don't want to go back and change everything, so I'm not gonna, since I'm certain the bliss will work either way), and try this today.

You can bop on over to the computer and thank me while your son or hubby or dog walker runs to the store to pick up some more 'taters for you. Because you're going to need them.
Love from the farm,

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bringing Home The Bacon...& Sausage

We ordered sausage seasonings today in anticipation of trying our hands at our own meat processing late next week. From Columbia Spice company we ordered hot sausage seasoning (for packages of sausage - think Jimmy Dean 1-lb chubs), sweet Italian and hot Italian seasonings. We used the Columbia Spice brands for the sausage last year and loved them. I wasn't a sausage person before we made our own last year and didn't expect to become one, but, oh my goodness, my friends were right when they told us there is nothing like fresh sausage. You have to try it for yourself to begin to understand it. Yum.

I'm still searching for a bacon brining solution. We weren't thrilled with the flavoring we used for the last bacon, so we'll take a stab at another variety this time. We weren't very happy with our homemade hams, either; while I'm looking forward to learning how to cure ham eventually, I'm not going to be able to tackle it this year. So, we'll use the ham pieces and a few of the roasts for canned pork, instead, which is so flavorful and convenient to have in your pantry. (If anyone knows of a good bacon seasoning product, by the way, I'd sure appreciate hearing about it.)

As I've mentioned before, we were thrilled with the quality and flavor of the pork we raised last year (ham and bacon being the exception due to the flavorings we used, not the quality of the meat.) We are eager to enjoy and share the pork that will soon be coming our way, especially in light of the ever-increasing costs of store-bought pork that is shockingly low on flavor. I can't believe the way I had to doctor a flavorless pork roast lately in order to bring any savor to the pot of green chile I was making from it.

My Grandma Potts introduced me to canned pork when I was a young girl, and I haven't had it since my early teens, when I moved away from Grandma's pantry. The memory of how good that pork was has stayed with me, though, and I can't wait to try it again. We do enjoy ham around here, so I'm disappointed we won't be curing our own. Knowing prices may simply keep going up, Mom and I are going to buy some extra Easter hams while they're on sale next month, and I'll can them, using a method I just read about early this week. I like the idea of having meal-sized portions of ham, instead of having to figure out how to use up all the leftovers of a full-sized ham each time I bake one. I'll share the canning recipe and the results after Easter, for those who might be picking up a few extra hams of their own.
The man we purchased our pigs from this year offered to butcher them for us, but let us know several weeks ago that pressing responsibilities had arisen that wouldn't allow him to help, after all. We certainly understand how that goes. The last time we processed pigs, our friends who had some experience, tools and a book on butchering helped us. We're not going to ask them to guide us through the process this year, however, because one of their little guys, a 3-yr-old cutie pie named Diesel (yes, you read that right), just had brain surgery a week or so ago and I'm disinclined to ask anything of that preoccupied family at this time.
So, Mike and I are going to go it alone. And, actually, we did ask to borrow our friends' butcher knives. But other than that, we're going to process these big fellas on our own, enlisting whichever kids are interested in pitching in. We'll haul the pigs over to the butcher next week, he'll slaughter them and chill their carcasses for three days, then we'll pick them up and set to work.
I'm going to ask the butcher to save the fat so we can make lard, and I'll be sure to let you know how that process goes, too. I'm a little intimidated, I have to say. I don't know why - probably just the thought of dealing with all that hot grease. Still, I'm going to forge ahead and hope I complete the process unscarred.

Now, I have to go take a pick axe to the chest freezer so we can get it cleared out to welcome all that fresh, flavorful meat soon. Then, I guess I better check the library for a picture book on butchering.

Love from the farm,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Who Could Resist?

To those who voted for which boots I'd be sporting in the garden this year, I thank you. I really, really do. I was tickled to get all those votes for the owl boots.

But, I didn't buy them.

I couldn't.

I mean, how could I after I saw these fellas?

Seriously, would you have been able to resist?

Now we'll see which will come first: the new chicks or the new chicken boots.

Love from the farm,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kids Who Cook

Yesterday, our oldest son, Adam, came up to me with a big hunk of asiago cheese that my aunt had given us and asked me what I thought he could do with it. "What if I melt it on a turkey sandwich?" he asked. I quickly looked it up and saw it was good in sauces and omelets and such but said, "Sure, give it a try."

So, out came the sandwich press and Adam said, "Oooooo, I'm going to brush the sandwiches with THIS," holding up the jar of olive oil infused with cracked pepper and various Italian seasonings that we'd made a few weeks ago. I was tickled that he thought of it. And even more tickled when he said he'd make me a sandwich, too.

My sandwich could have done with less of the cheese or more of the peppered turkey - whew, I was sweating it a little finishing that strong, rich cheese. Don't get me wrong - I'm a stinky cheese fan. But, this was a little bit much. Adam got the ratio right on his sandwich, though. The infused oil was inspired. Oh my goodness.

Skip forward a few hours and it was Tanner who was standing in front of me with a piece of salmon in one hand and a piece of cod in the other. He wanted the recipe for the honey garlic glaze that I made a week or two ago for the salmon, then said, "I don't think that glaze would be good for the cod, though, do you Mom?" Smart boy. No, I agreed the glaze wouldn't work. We discussed what could be done with lemon and pepper and off he went.

I couldn't help but think of my culinary adventures at their ages: Hamburger Helper at about Tan's tender age of 13, macaroni with butter and salt when I was 19 (admittedly, at Adam's age I was intent on saving my food money to use for gas money to drive to Phoenix on the weekends for after hours dancing at the Devil House. No satanic twist there - it was close to the Arizona State University campus, home of the Sun Devils.)

Anyway, while I was a pretty good cook as a youngster, I didn't delve into the culinary arts. I certainly wasn't turning out anything as scrumptious and beautiful as this lemon tart that Adam recently gifted us with.

Ahh, the joys of having kids who cook. I wouldn't want to enlist them to make dinner every night, because, hey, it's not fair for them to have all the fun. But it's good to know that if I needed them to carry the cooking load, we wouldn't be stuck with macaroni, hold the cheese.

In case you're worried about the girls - don't be. Their culinary gifts are coming along, too. They're taking a cooking class through 4H and having a ball.

Budding chefs, one and all. Can't wait to have this year's garden harvest for family playtime and art class.

Love from the farm,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blowin' In the Wind

I couldn't figure out why Belle the Weiner Dog was cowering when I tried to let her out this morning, then I looked at the scene from her point of view. The right side of the doorway was framed in stickers from the tumbleweeds that overnight have lodged 5 feet high on the porch. She probably thought she was being sent to do her business in a briar patch.

The wind has begun its annual blow here.

When I was a little girl, I had romantic notions of Spring, where April showers really did bring May flowers. Now, I live where Spring means being excited at the prospect of gardening, then being beaten down by the wind and grit. Where my bright-eyed enthusiasm gives way to wondering how important it really is for the wee plants to get a good start in rich, fertile soil. Because, at the very time when I should be working all that life-giving manure I've been talking about lately into the ground in preparation for planting next month, the wind kicks up and doesn't stop blowing until roughly June.

I guess I'll have to borrow Mike's protective eye gear, put a scarf over my hair ...and mouth... and wait till he's at work to undertake the task of spreading the poo. Because I'm not sure our marriage can survive him witnessing this scene twice.

Love from the farm,

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Good Morning!

Just a few quick thoughts before I start my Saturday chores:

Remember a few days ago when I mentioned checking into a raw milk source for butter and yogurt making and hubby pleasing? Well, the source said yes so I had a moment of great excitement. Then suddenly, I heard knocking on the inside of my skull and a little voice said, "Uhh, excuse me, Einstein, but isn't your son immunesuppressed, making him vulnerable to any stray little bacteria or virus that the rest of the family's strong immune systems might otherwise scoff at?" So, I figured I better check into whether Tan can have unpasteurized anything (including the goat's milk). Our online kidney guru pulled up a report stating that unpasteurized or raw is on that advisory council's no-no list, and my initial Google search pulled up the same. I'm going to check with Tanner's kidney doctor, who I trust implicitly, and will consider hers the final word. While it would be lovely to bring fresh milk into our home, I'm certainly not willing to take an unnecessary risk with Tan. If we have to wait until he's off the immune-suppressing meds, really, that's no big deal. We'll wait. I'll let you know what we learn.

Gertie let me scratch her behind the horns yesterday. It was fabulous. Then she stomped on my foot. One step forward....

Mike has pink eye. I've been grateful the past few mornings to be able to pop open my baby blues without degooping first. Fingers crossed these clear-eyed mornings will continue.

Adam's missionary application is sitting in front of Church leaders who are deciding where in the world he'll go. Will we be buying pea coats for England or short-sleeved white shirts for Central America? Or a banjo for him to do some front-porch pickin' in Kentucky? We'll know soon!

My friend Debbie said we can go scoop poop from their horse barn. Yee haw!

One of the pigs bit me yesterday. That was a first in two years of having pigs. I was dumping a can of kitchen scraps into their pen and one of the big fellas was ever so excited so he tried to take the can from me and chomped down on my thumb and hand. It was a blunt-edged chomp and broke the skin from the tugging motion, not from any razor-sharp teeth. But the throbbing, fevered, bleeding thumb didn't bug me nearly as much as the gobs of slimy goo he left all over my hand. Let's just say he was primed to properly masticate whatever food entered his strong jaws. Before you think I made some comment like, "Yeah, you'll get yours, buddy!" just know that I didn't. While I'm grateful for the food these pigs are going to be providing us soon, I'm not lighthearted about killing them. I thought being a farm girl now I'd take the butchering in stride, and to a degree I do in terms of not brooding over it, but mostly I just feel grateful for these animals' lives, not entitled to them.

Looking forward to seeing what the heck this "super moon" will look like tonight. It's been really bright around the farm the last few nights, and last night's moon was freaky, because it had a wide red ring around it. Creepy! But really, really cool. Wish the kids had been here to see it. They were in the Valley with family, where you don't see the stars, you see the soft glow of street lamps.

My kiddos are coming home today from their cousins' and my mother-in-law will be bringing them here, so soon our home will be filled again with some of my favorite people in the whole wide world. Guess that means I better go take a shower and get on my chores.

Love from the farm,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

When It All Stops

I was cleaning out my Inbox tonight because every time I opened it, it screamed that it was full to bursting. I stumbled upon this email to and from a friend, and realized I'd forgotten all about it.

Sort of. Because the stuff I wrote in that old email is etched into my sinews and scratched into my bones, so even if it's not on my mind, it's in me.

Everything is so good with our youngest son Tanner right now. He's holding his own with his kidney disease. And I love living in the moment of well being. That's why, right now, when I'm feeling safe and happy and full of hope, might be the best time to share this.

Since this was written (and settle in, it's a long read....) we've dodged chemo, blessedly turned around a long relapse, and have brought all Tan's important readings into the "normal" range. I love normal. It's a lovely juxtaposition against the alternative.

You think you're OK...and in the thick of the bad times, we really are lifted up so we can be OK...but sometimes everything stops and things we didn't even know were there come spilling out. I actually drafted the below a couple of years ago, but only shared it with my friend last Spring, at a time when I had ground to a halt and couldn't function, though I was trying to keep that to myself, as well. As I said to her in my email, "I think of nothing for hours. I feel bereft of spirit....In short, I'm not myself. And the me that's left behind is no one I know."

Referring to the post below, I said, "Finding out that when I think I'm thinking of one thing, but I'm really filled to the brim with stuff like this, it's no wonder that everything is getting stymied and that I'm just not able to connect anywhere."

Here's the post that was never posted.... (Remember, all is good and happy now. Sometimes, having a chronically ill child just gets rough.)

NO TV? Not a Problem (draft)

When I sat down to write this little ditty the other day, I wrote the headline first. Because that's what this post was supposed to be about. I was going to write - humorously, I hoped - about how when we got home from a hospital stay with Tanner, after a long month of running around the state trying to figure out what was wrong with him, we found the cable had been disconnected because I forgot to pay the bill.

That was August 2008 and we decided, hey, let's try not having TV awhile. It's been OK; we haven't missed it TOO often. Then, I turned on Fox 10 News this morning at my Mom's while trying to write for a client, and after hearing the anchors (both male and female) tease a segment on the proper way to pluck your eyebrows no less than 6 times in the hour prior to the segment actually running, I decided that I really didn't miss TV. So, I tuned the TV to a music station and sat back down to my writing assignment.

That was it. That is what I intended to write about, dressed up with all sorts of witticisms and no-TV kid anecdotes, of course.

So, I wrote my headline and started writing what I thought would be that post. This is what came out instead. I guess this must have been waiting around back there in the nooks and crannies of my mind, waiting to be heard. As it unfolded, and I realized there was no way to bring this back around to my intended topic, I decided to just give in. So here it goes. While you read this, know that all is really well. Tanner's doing great. I even ran into his teacher the other day at lunchtime and she told me he'd had 3 points taken away so far that day for chit-chatting. We were both delighted, then I was obliged to tell her to tell him that his mom said to quit talking. She laughed and said she would, then we both agreed again that it felt good to have him feeling good enough to misbehave in class.

So, he's fine. I'm fine. But stuff like this is still sunk into the fibre of my being, as I'm sure it is in Tanner's. And Mike's. And Adam's. And my Mom's and Dad's. And my sister's. And the girls'. And Mike's mom. And all who love Tan and us. Memories are a tricky thing. They can hijack your heart for a little while. I've learned to let them roll over me rather than fighting them, and then move on. Letting a remembrance wash over me unencumbered by trying to stifle it somehow allows the joy to edge back in a little sooner.

All that said, here's how I approached writing about not missing TV. Imagine my surprise:

After we'd spent a month going from doctor to doctor, putting Tanner through test after test; watched him wasting away before our eyes, too weak to sit up or hold his head up, or even talk much of the time, we spent 10 days in the hospital in Flagstaff. Specialists in the Valley were consulted; a pediatric gastroenterologist from Phoenix Children's Hospital visited, tested, probed painfully, and pronounced that the tests on Tanner's internal systems showed he had endured an unidentified traumatic illness, but there was evidence of initial healing in his colon. Finally, after he'd been on IV nutrition for 7 days, and had been able to hold down liquid without throwing up or being thrown into prolonged bouts of desperately clenched, fetal-position agony, we were allowed to take him home. He was skeletal. He'd been one month without a meal.

The last few days in the hospital, they finally allowed us to let him try Saltine crackers. He couldn't tolerate them at first. The above-described, so-hard-to-watch agony would ensue. As the days went on, however, he could finally nibble a half a cracker without pain. Then, the day before he went home, he WANTED the crackers. And, after coaxing and pleading with him to try to eat during the past month, I had to hold back.

We were allowed to feed him one cracker, wait for 45 minutes to see if he reacted, then give him another one. It was horribly ironic that after all this time, watching him grow weaker and sicker and quieter, when he couldn't tolerate food or drink, that now I had to firmly deny him when he would beg me for another cracker during the waiting period; pleading because he was so hungry. And I had to deny him. After about 6 hours of this, when it was evident that he actually was finally able to tolerate food in his digestive system, we were allowed to let him eat the crackers as he wanted them. He was in heaven.

It was a hard 6 hours. It was a hard month. It had been a hard summer, and it became a hard fall. We returned from the Flagstaff hospital sometime in August, but Tanner was never quite well. Then November came and we finally got a diagnosis after a tense ambulance ride to the Valley from Flagstaff, when Tanner showed symptoms of an often fatal condition. While the ride was taut with the strain of the unknown, there had been a blessing given in the examination room of the pediatrician's office that promised peace and calm, and the promise was granted; so Tan and I were no longer fearful, just intent. Part of the strain for me came from Tan and I being engaged in something so big and dangerous, and Mike being home asleep after a long night's work, completely unaware of the dramatic scene unfolding with our youngest son. I felt somehow guilty that he, who is so in love with his kids, should be oblivious to the severity of the situation. Knowing Mike sleeps like a log, and wouldn't be roused by the phone, I called a friend who lives down the road and asked her to please go to the house, to go into our bedroom and wake Mike and tell him what was going on. I knew that was an awkward thing to ask someone to do, but I couldn't stand him not knowing. It wasn't fair that he might wake hours later to find he'd missed something so important.

Not long after that request of my friend, I got the groggy, confused call from Mike as he struggled to climb out of the deep furrows of sleep and comprehend the gravity of what I was sharing with him. How do you get pulled from sleep to hear the words, "They told us that the fact that Tanner is still with us is a very good sign. Usually, if someone is going to die from this, it will happen in the first 24 to 48 hours of onset."

Onset. A word that would come to figure boldly in our lives.

While Tan didn't have the dire disease they initially thought, he was experiencing a pretty severe relapse of another kidney disease that had gone undiagnosed. It turns our that the onset of this condition that would turn all of our lives, but especially Tanner's, on edge, was a key to how he would fare in the long run. The onset, though we didn't know it at the time, had been a scary, sudden bout of crippling arthritis just a few weeks after school let out for summer. The severe arthritis landed him on crutches for a week, then went away.

The 1st relapse, we now learned, had been the long month of desperate pain described above. The copious amounts of bleeding and protein spilling (another phrase that now plays a leading role in our lives) that put Tanner in the ambulance was another flare. The relapses in a relatively short period of time with such a dramatic onset of severe symptoms put Tanner outside of the group of patients with his condition that experience a relatively benign (albeit painful) and limited duration of the disease. Tanner's brand of onset means lifelong care under a kidney specialist.

His onset means he will likely have continued relapses, times when his kidneys are at great risk of failing. Days when we'll diligently monitor his blood pressure, his protein output, the amount of blood in his urine, whether he's swelling, whether he's nauseated or vomiting. If 5 days go by and the tricky symptoms abate, then we can go back to normal. If he goes longer than 5 days, then it's increased treatments with toxic meds and perhaps more serious medical interventions.

Those toxic meds. They keep kidney patients off dialysis, which most would agree is a pretty unpleasant life condition. So, we're grateful for these risky meds. Still, it's a little bit anxiety producing each month when we have his blood drawn to check his kidney function, yes; but also to check how his bone marrow is faring. See, the immunosuppressive drugs he's on include anti-rejection medication - the same that people who have already had an organ or bone marrow transplant take. Only Tan takes it at about 6 times the dosage of many transplant patients. And one of the more serious risks involved with this medication is that it can cause bone marrow to fail. So, monthly, we check those all-important platelet counts and other markers to make sure the treatment for his kidneys isn't the trigger of other threatening illnesses.

We wish Tanner's disease had been milder - both to have spared him many harrowing experiences and because it might have pointed to an easier future path for Tan. But, we've had lots of blessings along the way. With such a severe onset, his kidney doctor expected to find signs of great damage to important systems in Tanner's kidneys; a biopsy revealed surprisingly little damage. Also, in spite of tough relapses in the past year, Tan's kidneys right themselves and don't show signs of additional scarring or loss of function. That's a tremendous and unexpected blessing. And, during our last visit, the doctor spoke of real reason to hope that we might not have to go down that path to dialysis and transplant that his onset could have otherwise set him up for. That's a tremendous blessing, too.

And speaking of blessings, there have been literal blessings given to Tanner in critical moments by holders of the priesthood, which promised peace. And one blessing even said the time would come that Tanner would put this behind him.

Can your heart gasp? It feels, every time I think of those words, that my heart actually gasps as I wonder, "Did that mean that the acute illness he was experiencing at that moment would be put behind him?" (It was.) Or, "Does it mean that ALL of this will be left behind at some point?"

I don't know the answer to that. I know what I hope. I feel like I don't dare utter the words or some pinched little creature will take my hope and rip it and stomp on it and grind it into dust. But, oh, what I hope.

Do these musings belabour me every day? Absolutely not. I'm getting good at living in the moment, at least in this regard, and appreciating - even expecting - every good day. Am I surprised when these musings tumble forth in the most unexpected moments - when I'm pondering the ridiculousness of a news segment about eyebrow plucking, for instance?

Yes, sometimes the intensity of memories and wonderings shock me. But, I have learned that while we are not lifted out of these trials - as much as we might wish to be - we are never left alone as we work our way through them. And that is a gift.

I don't know what the rest of this journey will be like. I don't know what Tanner or we will be called to endure. I don't know if one day it will be a memory of the trial before the blessing of healing, or a lifetime of appreciating every blessing that guides us through the difficulties. I know the experiences have changed us in ways we may not yet understand. I pray that someday Tanner will look back on a long, healthy, strong life and use this experience to bless others. To give hope to others who may need it. To say, "I overcame this. So can you."

I hope. I pray. And, then I get back to work. Which, now that all of that has tumbled out and quit taking up space, maybe I can do.

Love from the farm,

Favorite Home & Cooking Discoveries

I've always loved to cook and do things around the kitchen, but it's only been in the last few years that I've really been able to concentrate any significant amount of time on all things homey.

Here are a few of my favorite discoveries:

  • Rubbing your hands with a couple teaspoons of salt then running them under cold water will get rid of painful onion and aromatic garlic oils. Many a time my children have found me, mascara streaming down my cheeks, eyes clenched tight, furiously scrubbing my hands with salt. They've quit asking me if I'm OK; they know that within moments I'll be happily cooking again.
  • You shouldn't add liquids to any dry good mixture containing baking powder until the last possible moment before mixing, so whatever you're cooking will have the perfect texture and height. This goes for your pancakes, quick breads, biscuits and any other item in which you include baking powder.
  • Baking cornbread in a cast iron skillet. I don't know why I love this so much, but it makes me happy each and every time.
  • Canning. Magical. It's hot, long hours, and don't even think about doing the cost analysis between the amount of time it took you to plant, grow and can the food compared to what it would have cost to go to the Piggly Wiggly and pluck it off the shelf. That's not what it's all about. It's about staring at the beautiful jars on your shelf, knowing YOU did that, knowing none of the goodness was cooked out - it's all sealed right up there in the jars; knowing there's nothing artificial or mysterious in those jars. It's love and health and security all gathered under a shiny, sealed tight lid.
  • Using honey in place of sugar in cornbread, pancakes and homemade buttermilk syrup means your family will be calling out to you from the table, singing your praises with their mouths full, while you're still pulling the last batch of pancakes off the griddle before sitting down with them. Usually, we wait till we're all sitting down to bless the food, but this is one meal where we bless the food before I'm done cooking, because once the syrup is done and the plate is piling high with pancakes, my crew can't stand the suspense any longer.
  • Grinding popcorn for cornmeal. It's beautiful, fresh and so full of flavor. And a cost saver: I never throw away ancient, half-used boxes of expensive cornmeal anymore. I buy regular popcorn, grind a small handful at a time and throw any extra - no matter how little is left - in a baggie and into the freezer. Then, I use the remnants for tossing on a baking stone before popping rustic bread or pizza pies into the oven.
  • Oatmeal pancakes. They must be served with homemade syrup, which is easy to whip up while the pancakes are cooking. Served alongside bacon and perhaps fried eggs, it's the best breakfast ever. But you better get those kids off their tushies and engaged in some strenuous project right after they eat, or everyone will be heading off for naps following this carb-packed meal.
While I'm waiting for the cornbread to be done that I'm baking to go along with Mike's beans for work tonight, I'll share our favorite oatmeal pancake recipe. I'll include a buttermilk syrup recipe, too, but I have to confess, it is good but it isn't our favorite. I believe finding our favorite syrup recipe will be a reward the housecleaning fairies will bestow upon me for cleaning off the top of the refrigerator.

But first, my final favorite discovery - not one I learned in recent years, but from my Grandma Potts, when I was a little girl: drop a slice of homemade cornbread in a bowl, cover it in fresh cream or milk, and sprinkle with sugar. It's a ridiculously rustic, country little treat and I've never eaten it without being transported back to Grandma's little single-wide trailer up on the hill in Pottsville, sitting at the rickety table looking out the kitchen window at Grandpa's beloved roses.

Love from the farm,

Oatmeal Pancakes

1 C flour (we use 1/2 C wheat, 1/2 C white)
1 C quick oats
2 T honey (or sugar if you don't have honey)
2 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

1.5 C buttermilk (I always just add a teaspoon or two of vinegar to regular milk and let it sit for a few minutes to sour)
1 egg
1/4 C oil

Sour milk and set aside. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add buttermilk (or sour milk), eggs and oil (and honey, if you have it); mix well. Cook on a hot griddle or frying pan.

It'll Do Buttermilk Syrup
(this is good, but as soon as I find our favorite syrup recipe, I'll replace this)

2 C sugar
3 T honey (or white Karo syrup)
1/2 C butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 C buttermilk or sour milk (see above for how to sour milk)
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients in a large kettle or saucepan (think deep! The syrup boils up high). Bring to a rolling boil for 3 minutes. Stir frequently. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Serve over pancakes or French toast.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Keeping It Fresh & Frugal

I find we're living closer and closer to the earth and the community the more we aim to keep it simple, healthy, fresh and frugal around here.

Last week, Mom and I decided to sign up with a produce co-op that delivers boxes of fruit and veggies to a neighboring town every two weeks. $15 a box. Even if I need to get 2 boxes to keep up with our family of 6, that's still quite a bit less than what I'm paying at our national brand grocery store for produce runs. You don't know what you're going to get in advance with the co-op, but the people I've talked to say they've been completely satisfied with the quality and freshness of the produce, with one gal telling me her lettuce kept nearly two weeks. As much as I want to support local businesses - and I do, in as many ways as I can - I have been increasingly disappointed in the quality of some of the produce available at our local grocery store.

In the gap between now and when our garden is producing, I hope the co-op will be a good alternative. My aim is to build a small greenhouse or hoop houses so I can begin growing produce year-round for our family and not be faced with this quandary in years to come.

Today, I sent a message to a family that has a milk cow to see if they're selling milk. I'd love to begin making our butter and yogurt, and Mike would like a little more milk fat in his glass. I hope to learn that 1) they are selling, and 2) that they're raising the cow without hormones and on feed that is all natural and organic.

I also sent a message to my friend who owns the local flower shop with her Mom, to see if she's still selling eggs. Since I'll be picking up new chicks that won't be laying until late summer, I'm back to buying eggs. Again, I'd rather buy from a local source, and thankfully, we have a few from which to choose. (Oh, how I just wanted to say, "to choose from," but I know it's poor grammar. Problem is, the correct way just sounds so darn formal. As much as I love words, at times I loathe grammar. It makes me nervous. At other times, I love grammar. I'm a bit perplexing.)


I'm also going to ask a neighbor if she has extra goat milk to spare that she'd be interested in selling. I've heard from far too many folks about how easy it is to make goat cheeses, and I think it's time to learn. After hearing from a produce worker at Safeway that they were told to expect 50% increases in grocery prices, the more I can make from scratch, the better. Plus, we love feta and goat cheese, so why not make it ourselves? It's bound to be amazing, as homemade usually is. (For those who are wondering, Gertie isn't a milk goat. We'd have to breed her, let her have the babies, let her nurse the babies, and fight the babies for the milk. Even if we didn't have to fight the babies for the milk, we'd have to convince Gertie to let us milk her. As quickly as ring-side seats might sell for that event, I simply don't have the constitution to take her on.)

As we finalize plans to butcher our pigs, I'm looking forward to filling our freezers, our larder and our parents' freezers with hormone-free, antibiotic-free pork. Good, clean food. With our son Tanner's kidney disease, I've become keenly aware of what we're asking our bodies to filter from our systems, and I just want everything that we're taking in to be as clean as possible.

With that in mind, today I fished out the last of the pre-packaged pasta and rice dishes that have been hanging around in the pantry to mix up and give to the dogs because we're out of dog food and I won't make it to the feed store until tomorrow. Not that I think the dogs deserve preservatives, because I don't, but it was nice to see that there is nothing left in the larder that is packed full of mystery ingredients. Plus, the dogs will likely love this rare, warm treat. They get the same old food, day in and day out. I've read with interest lately about how these folks are making home made food for their dogs and I wonder if there isn't some wisdom to that. Since I'm buying quality but not top-of-the-line dog food, I'm not at all convinced they're getting the best of nutrition, which I'm not comfortable with ("...with which I am not comfortable," she said regally, while gesturing to the butler, Jeeves, to refill her wine glass.)

Seriously though, we have stewardship over these creatures in our care, and I want to treat them well.

Speaking of cooking dog food, there was a funny moment today while I prepared the pups' food. I decided to add a couple of eggs to the noodles and rice to give the pups some protein. I found that, for some reason, the eggs had frozen in the fridge. I cracked them, pinched the slushy frozen oval masses from the shells and they plopped into the pot, egg shape intact. When I went back to stir a little later, I was surprised to find the eggs bobbing around the pot, now appearing to be nothing more than peeled, boiled eggs. I thought for sure those eggs would warm up and lose their shape before cooking through. It was an amusing little occurrence. Little white Weebles wobbling across the pot.

OK, I'm obviously just chatting here, so I better wrap it up. Suffice it to say, I'm enjoying choosing local, clean, quality and from scratch. It's good for our health, our community and our pocket book. When I get to start working in my garden, it'll be even better for the soul.

Love from the farm,

Monday, March 14, 2011

What Manner Of Poo?

Circa 3 years ago, if you'd told me I'd be having this conversation with Mike while driving back from Flagstaff together, I'd have tried to mask my surprise at your far fetched assertion, because I'm nothing if not polite, even in the face of far fetchedness.

Anyway, the conversation went something like this:

Mike: "When are you going to plant?"

Teri: "Probably mid-April. But I need to get manure and stuff worked into the garden now."

Mike: "Where are you going to get the manure this year?"

Teri: "Well, I was going to talk to Doy (the hay farmer) about getting some of his steer manure again, but there's a part of me that just wants to go pick up some bags at the feed store, so I don't have to go shoveling poo into the truck in the wind again."

Mike: "Have you talked to Shumway about what they do with their horses' stuff?"

Teri: "You know, Debbie has said a couple of times that we're welcome to go get some of their poop whenever we want it."

Mike: "Well, why don't you talk to her? I could just take the tractor across the road and pick it up for you."

Ooooooo, the tractor. I'd forgotten about the tractor. I love the tractor. The tractor means not standing on a pile of poop and slinging shovels full onto the truck. Then standing in the back of the truck and slinging the same poop onto the garden later.

Teri: "That's a good idea. I'll give Debbie a call tomorrow. Besides, they've got so many horses and they've been there awhile, so there should be lots of the old, good stuff."

(FYI: Manure is better the longer it rots. No, I didn't expect to know this little morsel either, in my former, shiny life in the oh-so-neatly manicured suburbs. But there you have it: I know it.)

I'm pleased as punch to add that I followed this conversation up with a few moments of quiet pondering...musing...OK, very nearly daydreaming about just how old some of that poo might be and whether we might be fortunate enough to find some of the really awesome rotted black stuff.

Then, Mike got out to fill up the truck and I remembered I needed to call the butcher back to discuss getting the pigs butchered. So I did. And I talked for some time with the butcher about the ins and outs of what we'd be doing with the pigs and sounding very knowledgeable about the whole thing, not having to ask any clarifying questions or for him to spell anything for me to Google later, or anything.

Yep, a few years ago I could have told you all about plans to launch new masterplanned communities or how to re-brand an upscale shopping center, but now, well, now you can ask me whether chicken or horse poo is the better choice for your garden beds. The difference being my advice comes a LOT cheaper these days, even if it isn't imparted with near the level of expertise I used to offer.

Still, I'm learning, and you have to give a girl credit for being willing to step outside her comfort zone. Even if what she finds herself stepping into is a big ol' pile of poo.

Love from the farm,

(By the way, chicken poo is a great choice for your garden, but you better make sure it's good and aged or it'll burn your plants; on the other hand, horse poo works great, too, but you can look forward to many quality hours weeding if you don't mulch correctly. Which I haven't figured out...yet. I'll learn. As far as ideas for launching a new community, well, we can discuss that another time. When I'm wearing heels, not pondering whether it's too late in the season to plant early peas.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hoping Lullabies Are Being Sung

I try to keep the greater world out of Love From the Farm, for the most part, because this is such a wonderful little place to hide away. But, oh, my heart is aching for all that is happening in Japan, and all that was recently happening in New Zealand and Australia and Chile, and the stacks of natural disasters that have been taking our worldwide communities by terrible surprise in recent months.

While it's wonderful to revel in the beautifully simple things of life, I find I can't not give some of my heart over to these important, grave, devastating events that are taking such a very personal toll on our brothers and sisters around the world.

I'm praying that young and old in Japan will be warm and dry tonight, with a bit of nourishing food in their stomachs, news of loved ones, and someone finding the spirit to sing lullabies to frightened, confused little children. Because it's important to nurture the most vulnerable among us, and the lullabies will soothe the adults sitting near, as well.

Much love from the farm,


Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Evenings Lighten

Even as I look forward to gardening season and have already enjoyed tilting my head back, eyes closed, to bask in a warmer sun, I feel a little sense of loss at the lengthening days. I know these slightly later sunsets mean the long, dark winter nights are coming to an end.

Ending, too, are the chances to curl up on the couch near the fireplace re-reading dog-eared magazines, of hearing the wind bending the raindrops' path, sending sheets of rain to pound the windows and old adobe walls of our home.

I savor those times when I'm chilled to the bone by some outdoor chore, which gives me permission to step into a long, steaming bubble bath and melt the cold away. Even as I sink deep into the scalding water, I rather enjoy the shivers caused by the slightly ajar window letting in a frigid draft.

It's as the days lengthen that I realize the evenings of reading and studying and poring over ideas and plans will soon give way to putting the plans into action, planting the seeds, nurturing new life and getting good and dirty. Then, the steaming baths will be replaced by barely warm ones meant to soothe joints aching from a good day's work, while drawing away the heat of the day.

I love living where we experience all four seasons to varying degrees, and I know I'll have ample joy in the coming spring and summer. But because I do love all four seasons, I'll, for awhile at least, miss those that have just passed from our grasp.

Love from the farm,

Snuggling Down With Some Favorites

Used to be, when I felt bad enough to give up and crawl back in bed, the most I had to look forward to was diving into a good ... or not so good ... book.

Today, I got up and around (but not very far around) for about 3 hours then decided I really didn't feel good - shivers, fever, tummy - and was going to crawl back in bed. Then I had a moment of unexpected delight when I realized I could bring my laptop to bed and do some guilt-free catching up ... hours of it! ... with my favorite blogs.

There are some women out there who have opened their lives and farms or homes to the world who I just love to visit. Now, my 20-year PR and marketing career taught me that you NEVER promote someone else's product, unless it's a cross-promotion that strengthens your own brand. Well, I guess I've just shed most of my PR identity because I'd rather give kudos to and share the joy and whimsy (and scrumptious recipes or unabashed decadence) of keeping up with these ladies, rather than worry about sending you away from my little corner of the blogosphere. Besides, Gertie hasn't said so, but I think she's in a huff over all the recent attention, so she'd rather hang out of the public eye for a bit.

So, if you have time - or if you are a little under the weather and want some light reading - I might suggest you visit some of these wonderful gals:

The Pioneer Woman
On The Way To Critter Farm
Life On A Southern Farm
A Handmade Life
Morning Ramble
Not Dabbling In Normal
101 Cookbooks
Chiot's Run
Chickens In the Road
Coal Creek Farm
Unearthing This Life
Slow Living Essentials

Now, go visit some of these folks. You can thank me later. (And, do let me know who you discover you love.)

Propped against pillows on the farm and suddenly feeling better about feeling bad,

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gertie Has Wanderlust

My friend Debbie's name showed up on my phone screen awhile back. "Hey," she said when I answered, "I just drove by your house a few minutes ago and wondered if you knew your goat is down by the road, just watching the cars go by. "

I have suspected for some time that Gertie's innocent days, when the fenced boundaries of our property represented the boundaries of her world, were coming to an end. Gertie has begun to poke and prod those boundaries, putting the proverbial camel's nose under the proverbial tent. Apparently, she's intoxicated by the proverbial incense burning in those tents.

She has begun to wander.

Early this week, she followed the dogs through the fence behind the chicken coop onto the neighbor's private lane. That's a no no. Last week, she followed the dogs through the wide area in the fence that grants access to the neighboring alfalfa field. Wintertime: OK. Spring and summer: Ummm, no. Don't want to steal the farmer's hay - that's bad juju.

Back to Debbie's call. "She wasn't in the road," Debbie explained, "She was just watching each car go past. The dogs were down there with her, too. Do you need me to take her up to the house or something?"

I was going to be in town for a few hours, but we agreed that when Debbie drove back by she would check to see if Miss Traveling Pants was still by the road or causing trouble, and would give me a call. About an hour later, Debbie called with the status: Gertie was no longer at the road.

Still, the age of innocence is past. We can't have a wandering Gert. We knew the time would come when she pushed the boundaries. It's basic goat DNA. Still, it's been fun having her trot around the property with whatever farm clique she was attaching herself to at the time. The chickens, the ducks, the turkeys, the dogs - she's one of those enviable souls that fits in any crowd.

How sad that the antidote to Gertie's daily constitutional is to put her on a leash or in a penned enclosure. Just when she's discovered there's a big, colorful world out there, she's going to find herself restricted. It doesn't seem quite fair. But the alfalfa is starting to poke through the frost in the farmer's field, and we can't have goats stealing crops or stopping traffic. So, we'll have to find a solution that curbs her wanderings but doesn't break her spirit.

A big, sturdy livestock stopping fence (is there really such a critter?) surrounding our 3 acres won't be a reality for a few years down the road, so she'll have to bide her time in a roomy pen or on a long chain that we can pull up and stake around the property. And, when we're outside with her, we can test the waters at letting her out to trot along with her pals. I'd miss her banging on the door, so we have to let her have some rambling time.

We'll let you know how it goes. And how much grief Gertie gives us when we find a solution.

Love from the farm,

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Upside

This homeschooling thing has had me a little shook.

We hadn't planned to undertake it, but did so because we had kiddos dealing with some wacky health issues and felt we'd be better able to get on top of it all if we had the kids home where we could be in control of most of the facets of their lives.

Smart idea. Hard solution.

I like to P-L-A-N. Methodically. Deliberately. Thoroughly. In triplicate. With charts and outlines and diagrams. Winging it is not my thing. Ever.

Winging it on something as important as my kids' education has had me in vapors. But, I've talked to lots of people who are good at this, have read a lot and have spent hours at the library (that new resource I discovered recently). I did this for a few weeks, then figured we'd better just get started. We've jumped in and it seems to be going OK. We're two days in.

Here's my big concern: my kids are really, really smart. What if, in 3 short months, I break them? Like, the smart part of their brain will be irreversibly broken by my feeble attempts at educating them? It's keeping me awake. Seriously, my eyes are extra dry these days because I'm spending what should be sleeping hours with my eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling.

I'm sure it will be fine. I'm going to keep at it, and we'll be fine. I'm certain of it. How much damage can I do in 3 months? OK, never mind. I can't go there. I'm just going to stick to the belief that somehow it will all be OK.

The kids are calm so I suppose I can be, too. Tentatively.

We did discover two upsides today:

1) Because we're doing this learning thing together, I'm learning new things, too. Like, did you know that they found ancient graffiti in Egypt? Translated it reads, "Go hang yourself." I'm not kidding. Can't you just picture that early tagger hoodlum, wearing a gold ankh upside down on a big chain to flash his gang sign, standing lookout while his buddy used spray soot & vegetable gum ink to leave that scathing graffiti on the side of some big-wig's pyramid? Ahhh, kids.

2) The other upside? When the kids are using all of the Internet sources in the house for their schoolwork and it's not my turn to do the dishes, I'm left at loose ends. Me + loose ends= Cooking!

The kids have discovered that "school lunch" can be a beautiful thing. That is, if you think honey glazed salmon, rice and spinach are beautiful things. Around here we do.

The kids discovered today that school lunch in Momland does not mean squeaky chicken nuggets or cardboard pizza. They'll soon discover it doesn't mean salmon every day, either, but why burst their happy little bubble before we have to?

I have to say this was a particularly yummy dish. Want to try it yourself?

Here you go:

Honey Glazed Salmon

4 Salmon fillets
2 Tbs Canola oil
1 Tbs Honey
2 Cloves minced garlic

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place salmon in an ungreased 9 x 13 pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mix the oil, honey and garlic. Brush on fillets.

Bake covered for 10 minutes; uncover and bake additional 10 minutes.

Serve with steamed rice and vegetable. We started with everything side by side on the plate, then just mixed it all together. We had steamed spinach as our green thing. It was a great choice.


Love from the farm,

(UPDATE: Oh good grief. My fears of being inadequate are confirmed. It wasn't Egyptian graffiti, it was Pompeiian. See? I don't know what I'm doing. Criminy.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

We've Got Some New Voodoo Around Here

I'm not saying we're about to embark on some weird, hippie-dippie adventure around here or anything, I'm just saying that my shopping list yesterday had things on it like this:

  • Xylitol

  • Amaranth

  • Spirulina

  • Senna leaf powder

  • Apple pectin

  • Green clay powder

  • Psyllium husk

  • Marshmallow root

  • Skullcap

  • Wormwood

  • Walnut hull

  • Mullein leaves

  • White oat bark

  • Wheatgrass

  • Feverfew

  • ...and more
I couldn't pick these exotic little packages up at Safeway or Bashas'; no, I had to go to the quaint little Sunshine Herbs cottage in Show Low to collect these unusual new members of our household.

Why, you ask, did I stop at this paltry list? Why not pick up eye of newt and cobweb strands while I was at it?

Because, in spite of it sounding like I've got a cauldron bubbling back at the farm, what we've actually got brewing are plans to undertake a major lifestyle change.

One that involves my stopping drinking Pepsi.

I'm scared.

Yet resolute.

And scared.

But really, really resolute.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wish me luck.

Love from the farm,

(P.S. I realize that for the mildly health conscious person, these are not exotic items at all. I know this and am ashamed. Because it points to just how far outside the "natural" health world I've lived. Ah, well. There you have it. Now, I need to go water some moss.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dreaming of Chickens

I dreamt of chickens last night.

Rather, I dreamt of one very odd looking chicken - she was black, with a long neck, bushy head and scrawny body. In my dream I was a little alarmed when I saw the chicken. I don't know if it was because she didn't belong to us, she hadn't looked so weird the last time I'd seen her, or if it was a case of every time I looked at that particular chicken, I was shocked by her appearance. You know how dreams can be woefully short on back story. I suspect it was the latter - that every time I came into the chicken yard, I was shocked by her appearance.

When I woke this morning, I knew only one thing for certain.

It is time to order Spring chicks.

We need to get our little flock growing again so we can have eggs by late Summer. (I like to capitalize the seasons sometimes. Seasons are exciting so I think they bear emphasizing. Plus, I think there is a time when it's grammatically correct to capitalize them. I'm not sure when that time is so I do it every so often just in case I hit the mark occasionally. Kind of an accidental smarty moment. Or not.)


We'll be getting new chicks soon - breeds selected to provide us with brown eggs, white eggs and green eggs. White eggs are kind of boring but the Leghorns who provide them are fantastically consistent, giving you pretty much an egg a day, every day, and I'm looking forward to that kind of dependability in a flock.

We will of course have at least one of these guys:

Solely because for more than a year I have wanted to name a chicken "Reggie," and if this guy doesn't look like a "Reggie," I don't know who does!

Now, responsible chicken owners will have the brooder box ready before ordering the chicks, so that's what we'll do. Or what I hope Mike will do since he has the next 4 days off.

With this decision made, maybe the chickens won't come to me in dreams. Maybe eggplants will come to me in dreams, because I really need something to spur me along on seed starting.

I just hope eggplants in dreams aren't scary.

Love from the farm,


(P.S. Yes, Mom, this means I have flip-flopped on the decision to continue to have chickens. I know you'll be astonished to hear this of me.)

(P.P.S. We had already made the decision to get new chicks. The dream only reminded me to get on it. I do not make decisions based on dreams as I am not a Biblical prophet. Just to be clear on that.)