Love Wrapped Up in Stitches

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I’ve been a busy bee these past months.  Our first grandchild is coming in four short weeks or less and I cannot tell you the buzz of excitement around here! (I am using a lot of bee terms…I am also excited for my bees to arrive in April!)  We have a baby shower this weekend that will fill the capacity of the coffee shop I am using and there were still many more people I would have liked to invite!  It is a great thing when friends and family gather around a soon to be mom and support her.  Community is an amazing thing!

This journey has brought us closer, has created a new place in our lives to fill with joy, and has made me very thankful for each moment.  There are moments when we are forced to realize our good fortune and no longer take for granted that everyone has a healthy pregnancy, or that everyone gives birth, or that everyone’s child grows up.  A friend of Emily’s, who was going to come to the shower as they have been going through their pregnancies together, and supporting each other, lost her baby at seven months pregnant.  A perfect baby girl was born yesterday at two pounds, with defined fingers, curly black hair, and a cord around her neck.  A cruel thing to have to deliver a dead baby and such a young mom left in the wake of grief.  I was moved to tears for this sweet young woman.  There is a bond all around the world amongst women, those we do not even know, one that can never be fully understood or explained, a connection in motherhood, one that sympathizes with each emotion involved.  And all I can do is pray for her, powerless to take away her sadness.

Our hearts beat a little faster as we ask Emily, “Did the baby move today?”  Place our hands on her warm tummy in hopes of feeling a little kick, a little hello, desperate for her to be born healthy and strong and outlive us all!

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I have prepared a welcoming pack of gifts, one that I do hope she will drag around for years to come.  I made a quilt for Maryjane to warm her in the evenings, to cuddle into and know that she is adored and watched over, to hide under during thunderstorms, to dream under.  I did not opt to put in the yarn ties, I simply quilted it and left it rather plain (in my mind).  But, it seemed perfect.  As I learned from my mother and grandmother, I embroidered the recipient’s name on the back and who made it.

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I had these fun labels made to put on all the things I shall make her.  Made for you by Grammie.  This baby comes from young families and there are nine,….calculate how spoiled this baby is going to be….nine grandmas!  I had to think of a name that set me a part but wasn’t too far from the original.  So, Grammie it is.

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A fuzzy afghan to swaddle her in, hold her close to my heart, watch her wrap up her teddy bear (Papa Doug is in charge of all things fluffy and stuffed around here…the bonified expert on stuffed animals!) that Papa gave her.  Watch it be cast aside, then found again, and act as a reminder of how much we think of her.

Crafting homemade gifts for others is so much more emotionally charged then something off of a Walmart shelf, don’t you think?  It doesn’t take much to pick up a simple skill, make a throw pillow, a quilt, an afghan, a shawl, a scarf…your love for the person wrapped up in the stitches!

Growing Potatoes in an Odd Fashion

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This is the time of year I wish I were in a warmer climate for I would surely be outside planting!  Looking out at the four foot drifts, I really need to worry about how to get to the chicken coop, not the garden!

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In the meantime, our dance company performs this Friday.  In one of the numbers the kids are alley cats and I always have crazy ideas that I then have to implement.  I thought I would get a couple of trash cans that they could crouch behind then saunter out to their positions and start their dance.  Now, I’ll have two black trash cans that I really don’t need…..or do I?

My mind wanders back to a class I took with Tammi Hartung.  I really like this lady.  She has some great books out there.  She is an accomplished author and grower.  She provides herbs for the nearby plant nursery and is an herbalist.  It was her book, “Growing 101 Herbs that Heal” that inspired me on my current journey as an herbalist.  In this class, hosted by Tagawa Gardens, she talked about growing vegetables indoors all winter, sans lights and crazy set ups.  That inspired my table you will see in my post The Indoor Farmer (under Farming).  She also mentioned in the class how to grow tons of potatoes.

Place six inches of good planting soil in the bottom of the trash can with drainage holes drilled in the bottom.  Set tubers spread a part across the top.  Top with another six inches of soil.  Water.  Let soak up sun (no lid).  When the green part starts to rise above the soil line, add six more inches of soil.  Continue to do this until you nearly reach the top or it is the end of the season.  When you dump out the trash can, you will be flush in potatoes to store for the winter!  The entire barrel will be filled!  How marvelous!

We didn’t get around to doing this last year but I told a friend about it.  At the end of the season when they dumped out the trash can, it was filled with potatoes!

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I cannot wait to turn my dance trash cans into barrels of winter potatoes.  I will plant potatoes in the garden at St. Patrick’s Day, plant the two barrels closer to Mother’s day, and then plant another set of potatoes in the garden in July.  We do like our potatoes around here.  Some great, colorful, heirloom potatoes await!

http://elizabethdance.com

http://desertcanyonfarm.wordpress.com  – I did not know she had a blog until now!

Classy Farmgirl….taking classes that is

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Learning new skills is exciting, like opening a new page in our books.  Expanding what we can do in our life and what we can do for ourselves.  Learning also means teaching.  I read somewhere that we have a responsibility to teach what we know, so the circle continues.  Besides libraries and educational institutions, there are other teachers out there.  We so often put off taking classes in favor of say….doing the dishes.  But, more talents and excitements await and are only a class away!

This year I took a soap class.  So much fun, I am sure you read about it!  And now I can proudly provide myself with clean soap.  Fabulous.  I took a spinning class…..I may need to take one or… fifty more.

An old client of mine sent an email yesterday.  She used to have a goat farm and is now teaching classes on how to make soft and hard goat cheese.  Now generally, I figure I can learn all I can in a book.  And most likely I will read a book and try to just go do it.  There are limits to this type of knowledge without a hands on teacher.  I was scared of lye.  Kathi helped me conquer it.  I do not have the slightest idea how to make fine goat cheese.  I have exhausted my way through restaurants attempting to try every type of goat and sheep’s cheese…ash filled, wine soaked, pasture raised, brie style, herbs de Provence chevre….oh my.  Now that we know what kinds of cheese we would like to make (all of them), beats me how to do it!  So, Julie is going to teach me.  This helps her too.  Farmgirls cannot survive on one income alone off the farm.  Multiple facets must be in place to “make it”.  Besides farm products and craft products, there are always people who want to learn what you know.

There are more classes in my very near future.  Agriculture classes at the college as well as writing classes (gotta get this book published!), Spanish classes, and more dance classes, because it makes my dance school better, all await my “eager for knowledge” mind.

In turn, I will continue teaching Certified and Master Herbalist classes, animal medicine classes, dance classes, and new this year, bread making and canning classes.

I will learn hands on how to tend to bees thanks for my friend, Brett.  I am interning with my friend, Deb, who is a master gardener to learn the ins and outs of gardening before I take the college ag courses.  I will be better suited by the end of this year for my homestead that is forthcoming….perhaps I will go from mini-farm to farm next year.

Goat cheese classes- http://godshowranch.com

Deb’s blog- http://lookingoutfrommybackyard.wordpress.com

My classes- http://gardenfairyherbal.com

Four Star Farmgirl (meal planning and movie stars)

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We celebrated our anniversary this weekend with a stay at a four star hotel in downtown Denver.  It is a very old building with excellent service and two four star restaurants and lush surroundings.  We were standing in the foyer the other night looking at one of the menus.  A gentleman sat to our right.  He had passed us walking down the street earlier and now sat near us.  Doug whispers (probably a bit too loud), “Don’t you think that guy looks like a mix of Clay Aiken and Martin Short?”  He looked right at us.  I said, “No…maybe a little like Martin Short.”  Of course it turned out that it was Martin Short!  The weekend was accentuated by fancy restaurants with dime sized danishes for seven dollars, two ravioli for fifteen (a steal, I am sure), and very loud traffic, screaming homeless people, giggling drunk girls, and ongoing construction through paper-thin windows.  We did enjoy all the mouth-watering food, never having to open a door, delicious twelve foot windows to look out while sipping coffee and three days of doing nothing or whatever we pleased.  A fabulous weekend all together.  I type this in our beautiful hotel room as we prepare to go back to the country.  Back to peace and quiet.  I will have to start opening my own doors though once I get back.  I could be waiting on the porch for a long time.

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After weeks of celebrations and eating out and spending near fortunes (all worth it for fabulous food and company) it is time to get back to being a proper farmgirl.  And proper farmgirls meal plan.  Not meal plan like when I was first out on my own when it was imperative to do so because I was so broke.  Monday- Mac and Cheese, Tuesday- Hamburger Helper, Wednesday- Ramen Noodles.  Lord, how did we ever survive our twenties on meals like that?!  Now we meal plan because of health, finances, and because we desire good food!  No matter how good the food was at Cru or Kevin Taylor, it was probably genetically modified, not organic, and who knows where it came from.  I like to know what I am putting on the table!  Fresh, organic, grew it myself maybe (in the years to come, that will increase dramatically), homemade.  I love to eat like I am in a four star restaurant and I think for a hundred and twenty dollars I could have put on a better feast!  Infused oils, fine salts, fresh herbs, brightly colored produce, and homestyle cooking make life very nice indeed.  Add to that a glass of great wine (for less than twenty-five dollars a glass) and you are in business!

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However, after a long day of cleaning house, tending to business, taking care of animals, running errands, and a short attention span, if I don’t have a menu planned out, forget it…we’ll be eating Chinese food.   And I don’t really like Chinese food. I would much rather have my own cooking, I just need a bit of preparation.  I tried meal planning a week of meals in advance.  Beautiful, but by day eight if we didn’t get to the store we were out to eat.  I tried meal planning for three weeks.  Lost interest after two weeks.  So, two weeks of meals seems to be the magic number.  I have to drive to town to the health food store to obtain ingredients so every two weeks works for me.

I have begun checking out two library cookbooks each week and making my meals from there.  Mind you, I never follow recipes.  I can’t.  Too many variations and ways to make it better!  But I get fabulous ideas and general guidelines and each week is a new theme or book.  Cowboy cooking and slow cookers this week.  One pot meals and fresh Tex-Mex next plus plenty of personal inspiration.  Little House on the Prairie cookbook and Farmer’s Market Cooking the next.  I am determined for the next several weeks (okay, except the night we go to Evergreen for Doug’s birthday with our dear friends, Monte and Erik, for a ‘could die of happiness, the food is so freakin’ good’ meal) to make and stick to meal plans, eating at home every single night of the week, plus lunches and breakfasts at the table as well!  We will feel better, will not be overly full, will have lots of extra money to put into the homestead fund, dinner will always be available to children passing through or drop-in friends, and evenings at home are marvelous and fine.

Remember when you are meal planning to take some things into consideration: If you need to pack a lunch or dinner, make it picnic food.  If you know you will have a terribly busy day, plan for the slow cooker.  Have a nice mix of leisurely dinners like homemade pasta, and quick dinners like potato soup so that you are prepared.  Have plenty of ideas and ingredients to make impromptu dinners if you couldn’t get to the store after two weeks.  Eat plenty of colors even in the winter.  Kale, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, salads, squash, beets…beans of all sorts and lots of garlic.  Soup is fast and easy!  Leftovers are your friends for lunches.  Above all, enjoy the sensory and tactile experience of foods.  Enjoy the process of making it, serving it, eating it whether with others or alone.  Perfect the art of making sauce.  Sauce makes everything special.  Candlelight and good music a must!

The Well Behaved Goat

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He went from being a cute little guy to something of a nuisance.  Like an oversized six year old, giggling and trying to wrestle, he started pushing me around.  It was unfortunate that my back was against the metal bars of the stall.  I could practically feel the bruises forming!  His horns, thankfully nubs, were happily slamming into my hip as if I were another little boy goat wanting to play.  I could not push him very far, he was definitely stronger than me.  And as I was intermittently yelling for Doug and cussing at the six year old, I started thinking about when we get our own farm animals.

I imagined myself with a whole herd of unruly goats, throwing me into bars and permanently damaging my hip.  We were pet sitting for our friends at the time.  Doug just laughed when I told him because the day before the same goat had got him right in the stomach and I had at the time….laughed.  There’s karma for ya.  The goats are rescues from the Denver Zoo.  Nubians, the size of a very large dog, the mentality of a pre-schooler, and the escapee smarts of Houdini.  My friend, Nancy, says that it was just bad behavior on that goat’s part and that her Nubians do not do any such thing.  I did think that we could maybe get dwarf Nubians.  Doug said they will just take out our kneecaps instead!

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We really like goats though.  We tend to choose the naughtiest kitten at the shelter to bring home, the misfit dogs, etc.  We laugh at the goat’s antics (maybe because they don’t belong to us!) and watch their ever-childlike silliness.  We would like a few of our own.  We do not want any part in supporting factory farms and it would be nice to have our own daily milk that can be turned into butter or cheese or buttermilk or any number of dairy wonders that we generally refrain from!  How nice to add to my routine twice daily milkings.  The feel of a new baby in my arms like the one Emily is holding in the picture.  That was taken at Nancy’s house last year when her goats gave birth to two sets of triplets.  It was cute overload.  It was something I would like to see at our homestead one day.

Now, if I don’t want to get into the milk business, just provide for me and Doug and straggling children and grandchildren, how much do I really need?  Will a dwarf Nubian give, say two tablespoons of milk per day or a gallon?  What other breeds are there?  Is there a goat that can give fiber and good milk?  Please share any experiences you have had, friends.  Where in the world is my wonderous, well behaved, friendly, milk giving, fiber giving, hornless goat?

Crazy about Cast Iron

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There are several inches of beautiful laden snow already and the large flakes are still coming down.  I would like to put the Christmas tree back up, but Doug said no.  It is ethereal outdoors.  Here is a quick breakfast for you to throw together and put in the oven.  Then come back and finish reading my blog.
Crack 6 farm fresh eggs into a mixing bowl and add a splash of goat’s milk.

Then add any vegetables, cheeses, leftover anythings that would seem great in a fritatta and lots of herbs. 

Whisk together with 3 T of flour. 

Pour into a cast iron skillet and bake at 375 degrees until the top is lightly browned and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. 

Delicious with hot coffee and a jar of peaches you put up last summer.

Alright, it’s in the oven?  Sit, I must tell you the story of how a cheap housewife became an iron junkie.  I used to purchase pans in pretty colors.  I found a whole set of pans that were pink and I just adored them.  The problem is that they were teflon.  Controversies on health aside, flakes of teflon in my eggs isn’t my favorite addition.  I desired a cast iron skillet but we thought they were too pricey as a young couple with three small, very hungry mouths to feed.  Then we discovered, it’s where you look!  Doug bought me a set of cast iron pans for Christmas one year.  They were twenty dollars at JC Penny’s.  The nice thing is, I will still be cooking in them when I have great-grandchildren!  They just get better and better and the environmental aspect of it needs not even be spoken of as I never have to purchase a pan again!

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There is a gentleman around these parts called Wild BIll who peddles items.  (I need to get in touch with him because he is also a part of a bee keeping guild.)  He brings items that he thinks would be nice in my shop, or now that he knows my vice, cast iron.  I have purchased a fabulous large casserole pan (one I have never seen before) and a corn bread pan like my mother had.  The cornbread comes out looking like petite ears of corn.  I found my Dutch oven at an antique store.  I am still in the market for a larger one and a soup pan.  I presently use the enamel pans from Doug’s grandma’s old kitchen.

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The most peculiar cast iron item I have was given to me this Christmas.  Doug could barely contain his enthusiasm for the gift he had bought me.  It was from a local artisan, he said.  It was too large to wrap, he says.  I am thinking up all sorts of great gifts….carved wooden statues particularly.  So imagine my surprise as I sleepily stepped out on to the porch Christmas morning and saw…a giant cast iron cauldron.  Witch and dry ice not included.  Not being fully awake, I first thought, “What is he trying to tell me?!” (am I the witch?)  I had no idea what I was going to do with it.  Doug’s face fell as he saw my confusion at the missing wooden bear that I was sure would be there.  It was just certainly a surprise!  It has holes in the bottom and was used as a fire pit.  So, any large soap, laundry, or candle making ventures are out.  It is completely rusted but can be cleaned up.  Walk by’s at my store already worry about my religious denomination being an herbalist so a cauldron will just further frighten them (which might be fun).  It weighs two tons, or so, so wherever it goes, it stays.  I am between two things….making it into an herb planter for the porch or keeping it as a fire pit for starry, sweet nights.  I do love it.  It is a fun and creative gift sold to him by none other than Wild Bill.

Enough with my soap box on cast iron skillets.  I hope you have one.  Every farmgirl ought to.  I feel like I am in Little House on the Prairie with mine.  Your eggs are done.  Have a warm and cozy snow day!

 

A Letter To Young Parents…(to avoid the woulda, coulda, shouldas)

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Dear Parents of Small Children,

There are some things that are not told that should be told.  You may hear that time flies and you will be left alone, so enjoy your kids.  That is the extent of what we hear!  My youngest turned sixteen yesterday.  A brilliant young girl, soon to be a mama herself.  Quiet and serene.  We were always trying to make her talk more.  People still want her to talk more.  Do not people please!  These are your children and no matter what well meaning family or friends say, these are your children and they will turn out well by example and a lot of love.  Do not force them to be anything other than what they are.  I sometimes wish I were as quiet as Emily.  I often stick my foot in my mouth and wish I could just be quiet!

When the kids cut their own hair, laugh and take pictures.  When they cut their hair thirty times, laugh and take pictures.  She can cut her hair beautifully now and any and all making her feel bad from us or other well meaning family and friends was unnecessary and hurtful.  Let kids be!

Should they draw all over the walls, take a picture, laugh, and perhaps join them.  Maybe make a designated wall, maybe just get them a big sheet of paper, either way, paint is cheap.

Listen.  Sometimes it is hard when they are bantering on about crazy ideas, but don’t interrupt, just listen.

Don’t spank.  It is just you being mad and they know that.  They will never remember what they did wrong.

Be outside as much as possible.  Children thrive with sunshine, water, and air.  Just like plants, they grow…and smile, and become great nature people.  That is one thing I did right (I hope not the only!), no video games.  They would say they were bored, then have half the neighborhood out exploring creeks and parks, and having a great time while making memories and became closer siblings.

Dinner at the table as many evenings as possible with real food.  Not fake!  No processed lab stuff, real food.  Start a garden and have them help grow a few things so they know what real food is.  You would be surprised how many kids (and believe it or not, adults) do not know what meat actually is or where vegetables come from.

They will become teenagers and no one warns you of the utmost desperation you will feel, your powerlessness, your broken heart.  No one talks about this, but it happens to everyone.  But as soon as you feel like you have been crushed, smothered, and broken hearted enough, they will come out of it and love you even more.

And as they get older, do notice for yourself as we do, that we anxiously avoid any well meaning family member that feels they have to lecture us about our life every time they see us.  Past seventeen, your done.  Enjoy.  They are their own people!

Above all, even though you are human, try with all of your heart to say only nice things, only positive things, make lots of great memories, trips, holidays, family gatherings.  As many hugs and kisses as you can muster, even if they are naughty….none of it matters.  You will not remember it and if you do, you will laugh at the memory.

Just think….if they die tomorrow, will this matter today?  The answer is probably not.  I would love to go back and try again.  But I know now that is why grandmothers are amazing and so loving!  They figured it out!  This is our second chance at loving kids and not worrying about what we are doing right or wrong.

So dear parents, enjoy the journey!

Love, Katie

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How to Predict the Weather

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The weather reports are generally so off here that the weather announcer actually brags when they get it right!  I’m not kidding.  The snow from yesterday still wasn’t in the forecast as it was gently making its way down from the clear blue sky.  I used to think that the saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it will change” belonged strictly to Colorado but I have heard people outside of Colorado use it, so I guess not!  The point is, sure it’s nice to see if a doozy is coming.  If three feet of snow is expected, I will refrain from filling the clothes line.  But ordinarily, your guess is as good as mine, which is as good as the weather report’s.  In the city or country there are tell tale signs of weather changes on the horizon. Here is the scoop on knowing the weather.

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Snow Storm is coming- The lilac bushes and pine trees act as community apartment buildings.  The noise is intense filled with gossiping sparrows and laughing blue jays.  Scamper the squirrel has found a new girlfriend and they spend hours racing around trees and giggling.  The birds flit to and fro and the air is filled with activity.  If it stops suddenly…and I mean you can hear a pin drop….something’s comin’.

Cold Front is coming- Go stand outside.  Most of the time in Colorado the wind comes up from the south-west.  It is our “normal” wind if you will.  It brings snow or rain, neighboring smoke from wildfires, or fresh air through the front range.  The arctic wind will come from the north.  As I was putting the clothes on the line on a seemingly lovely day last month I noticed that it was cold..nay, freakin’ cold.  My fingers turned the most odd shade of purple and black after only a few minutes playing with wet clothes in the wind.  I noted the direction of the wind and went and turned on the heat lamp in the chicken coop.  It was ’bout to get very cold!

Tornado is coming- Huddling in the basement of our house in the middle of the city as a child, we heard what sounded like a train and hail hitting the windows.  We lived off of Broadway and Evans and the hail was actually signs from the highway!  The tornado ripped through, pulling up trees as if they were chopsticks leaving them in the streets.  Parts of fencing were gone, roof shingles, parts of 7 Eleven.  Our power was out and we had to be escorted to a motel where the Red Cross bought us McDonald’s and my siblings and I had the time of our life while my parents worried over the damage.  We met Mayor Pena and were in the newspaper. It was great fun. Now as an adult, I could probably do without the house being hit by a tornado.  One will first note the quiet, the wildlife in the area will let you know whenever something is about to hit.  They are way more in tune than we are, and will huddle in for oncoming storms.  The sky will be a greenish tint.  The wind blows.  When debris starts spinning up in little circles, time to get in the basement.  If the wind stops, the birds stop, the sky looks like something evil from the Hobbit is coming but with a touch of green and pink, you best run to the basement.

Rain is coming- Not quite so noticeable.  We watch towards the southwest at how big and how dark the clouds are.  On the open fields you can actually watch the storm blow towards you, like a giant tumbleweed.  It is awesome.

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Beautiful, warm, clear day- A most delightful day. The birds are singing, the animals are playing, the sky is clear with wispy clouds, the breeze is soft, not much moisture in the air, clear all the way to New Mexico and Kansas.  Time to take a baguette, some goat cheese, grapes, and a bottle of wine out for a picnic.  I can’t wait for the next one!

Farming Seasons

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As I look out the windows and I write this, it is cold and clear.  Outside one window shows soft blue sky and a sweet blanket of white clouds, the other window shows the remaining sunrise rays lighting up the church steeple yonder and glistening the snow.  And it is snowing.  The snow is falling directly over my house.  The weather doesn’t even know what season it is!

In the city, when the children were little, our seasons were based around holidays.  It is Halloween time, or Christmas time, or Easter time.  It is Valentine’s Day time or vacation time (one of my favorite seasons!).  Now that the children are older, we still love holidays but our mini-farm has placed us into rhythms and seasons we did not experience before.  They are a bit more extreme gliding from one season to another.

At the end of the farmer’s market season, after all the canning, garden clean up, running to and fro, I was ready for rest.  I could not take one more second of hot weather, not one more jar to can, or one more thing to do!  Winter is a time for rest.  I envisioned myself sitting in front of the wood stove (that I still don’t have!) calmly knitting, or crocheting, or spinning, at peace with a book, sipping hot, sweet tea.  I envision that every year.  By now though, I am bored to tears and desperately keeping myself from running outdoors in a fit of extreme mania and planting the pumpkin seeds in the snow!  It helps that our granddaughter will be joining the world next month, it has given me more winter projects.  In the next few weeks I will finish crocheting her blanket and finish making her baby quilt with her little name embroidered on it.  I have been having fun making aprons for folks and I am learning, slow but sure, how to spin yarn.  (It almost looks like yarn!)  I am planning, dreaming, writing, and well aware that I will be desperate for this time next year come the end of a hot August.  Even nature is resting.  Gentle breaths and hums come from the quiet trees and everything waits and rests for the first signals of spring.

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Spring is lovely.  I do adore the bulbs that come up.  No other flower is as sunny as a daffodil and ever so welcomed.  Overnight leaves burst forth in quiet merriment and flowers appear on the fruit trees.  Tis the season for excitement, yet confusion.  Cold and snowy, bright and sunny, when to plant, when to go back inside and rest.  But the renewal takes place in us as well and we are refreshed and waiting for summer.  Nothing feels as good as the first really warm day where one can actually feel the cold leaving their bones and their mood improving.  The new chicks and bees will arrive as well as the baby so our spring will be full of nurturing and fun.

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Summer comes early as we tend to the garden, planting with elaborate, exaggerated visions of glorious jungles of vegetables, humming bees happily dancing in the sun, flowers overflowing the front yard, and (say it with me now…) no drought!  The first farmer’s markets are a buzz of activity.  Summer is the time for farm commerce and days spent visiting with customers and seeping up vitamin D to store and very hard work.  Every Tuesday is canning day and the kitchen acts as a sauna.  I put my hair up and prepare at least two vegetables for the winter.  The heat in the house is unbearable and it keeps the family out so that I can work.  I feel like it is a spa day and rather enjoy it.  I may look into an outdoor kitchen this year, however, it does get to be a bit much!  Nancy’s and my new business, the 2 Farmgirls, will be busy and we’ll be making products and working markets as well as our other summer and work duties and will have the time of our life promoting farm life.

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Before we can catch our breath it will be Autumn, my favorite.  Cooler market days, raucous color, warming foods, still plenty of nice weather, final countdown to winter as we act as squirrels putting everything up.  The excitement of upcoming holidays.  I will have started school again and will be begging for days in front of the fire doing homework and spinning yarn.  Or just taking in a nice glass of wine.

But this year, I am going to take more time to enjoy each season.  Revel in its entirety.  Sit, ponder, breathe.

The seasons on a farm are rich.  Embrace each season and enjoy.  What is your favorite season?

Bringing Baby Home

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At the beginning of April last year, I was nervous.  I had no idea what I was doing and how to take care of little fluff balls.  The memory that kept circling through my mind at the time was a late evening years ago when we walked into the house and the kids started yelling, ‘Jurassic Park!”  “Jurassic Park!”  They had seen the movie many times and apparently what Zuzu had done to a wandering mouse she had found in the kitchen brought back memories of the dinosaur flick.  It wasn’t pretty.  The baby chicks could not come in the house to warm up and grow like other people’s. Nine cats, ten chicks, lots of cat toys.

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In true mothering fashion, I worried.  We bought a red light to warm them.  Our friends who were moving lent us their little chicken feeder.  We used a little china saucer for water (couldn’t think of anything else…these are fancy girls!).  We found a plastic storage tub and lid.  We went to work.  We set up the plastic tub in the chicken coop.  We put pine shavings in it and the little chicken feeder with chick starter in it.  We chose organic.  We did not feel we need medicated, genetically modified feed in our chickens any more than in our children!  We put a little bowl of chick grit in there to help the little floofies process their food.  The water went in and the light hung over one side of the box, very close to the top.  The lid would cover the rest of the box and towels would be on top and cover drafty openings.  Don’t want the darlings to get chilled.

Then we went to get the little ones.  Andy was home from college and went with me to the feed store to pick up our chickens that we had chosen.  I had waited too long to reserve the breeds I had read about so I had to choose who was left.  Instead of Buff Orpingtons I got Golden Buffs (who are wonderful layers and very sweet).  There were two little California white girls there that I thought were cute in a cage unclaimed.  In the box they went.  The two black girls were irresistible.  Jersey Giants; I couldn’t wait to see how big!  In they went with the six Buff girls.  We were on our way home with a cardboard box of chirping cuties.

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In the coop, we took each baby out and dipped her little beak into the water so she would start drinking.  They immediately took to it to my great relief.  We placed them one by one in the box after their drink and several kisses.  One of the wonderful things about baby animals is how they can make tough men melt.  Seeing an almost nineteen year old kissing and cooing at baby chicks was heartwarming and I wished that I had raised the kids out here with farm animals.  But better late than never I guess!  The kids kept disappearing to the coop.  If Shyanne were depressed we could find her out talking to the chickens.  Emily didn’t stay away for long and each girl had named one of the chickens and deemed her their own.  Friends came over to see the petite chirpers and much joy was spread from ten little chickens.

We learned that we should raise the light up a few inches each week for eight weeks.  If they were cold, they would huddle under the light and I knew to lower it a bit.  If they fled to the outer reaches of the box, they were too hot and I could raise it a little.  But most of the time, it was just right.  The girls thrived.

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The reason we took extra chickens home is because a few people bit their lip, sighed, or otherwise gently let us know that we should take more than six home as we are certain to lose a few.  For no apparent reason than what I deemed “Sudden Chickie Death Syndrome” one of the buffs was dead.  We mourned and took her out of the box.  Laverne and Shirley, the black Jersey Giants were doing wonderful, but then one day the smaller, Shirley, was dragging her head on the ground.  It seemed to be a broken neck and I panicked at the idea that I would have to put her down….somehow.  She only walked backwards and her head hung low.  She came inside with me under watchful supervision.  I made her a little neck brace with cotton balls and tape and held her on my lap to watch “American Idol.”  Two other cats joined Shirley on my lap and no one was the wiser of what I held in my hand.  We placed her in a shoe box within the plastic box that night.  Fully expecting her to be dead come dawn, I snuck out and noticed an empty shoe box.  She had busted out of the neck brace and jumped out of the box to rejoin her sisters!  I may have a new business on my hands.  Neck braces for chickens!  Weeks later everything seemed to be going well.  The chickens were bigger and they were not staying in their plastic box much anymore.  One day when Doug went in to feed them, another buff girl, limp and lifeless, lay near the box.  It was sad.  Still, many people were surprised that we only lost two out of ten.

Shirley succumbed to the rath of the evil four year old neighbor a few months ago as well as one of the white girls (Lucy…Ethel is still here flying out of the coop!), and one of the buffs, Violet.  I had prepared myself for coyotes, foxes, and raccoons, never a child and his dog.  So, left with five we are anxious to bring in ten new little velociraptor to join our team.  I will still use the box technique but I need to figure out a way to keep the big girls away from the new babies.  Without a mother hen there, they could be as detrimental to the babies as Zuzu.  I need to set up some kind of barrier, but what?  Any ideas from other chicken people out there?  I need some creativity, folks.

Emily, Shyanne, and Peep

Emily, Shyanne, and Peep

Well, a family of super sensitive, vegetarians survived our first year of loving and losing chickens and are ready for another group.  We are hooked.  Chicken farming seems to be our future.  Crazy chicken antics, the delicious eggs and Laverne and Peep wanting lovin’s all the time and to be picked up make it all worth it!

IMG_0442 (Up front, Mahalia, next to her is Peep, white girl is Ethel)