In Hilda’s Farmhouse

20180802_152433As I carefully unwrapped each fragile teacup, each plate, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  Each dish is over a hundred years old, hand painted from Denmark, and so beautiful.  How did the young newlywed, the new farm wife, feel as she carefully unwrapped such fine things on her wedding?  A hundred years separates and joins us in a flash of a tea cup.

My beautiful friend, Kat (whom I called mom) had a great love of history, and homesteading, and family.  She knew that I might be the only one to appreciate such things as old linens, and wind up clocks, and this and that, and so for each holiday I was gifted with heirlooms.  Hilda was her grandmother, a farm wife in Iowa and in my home I have her things.  I have never met her but we are connected through time as farm wives.  As women.  As housewives.  We are connected by our love of Kat and by the material things she used that carry memories and love.

img003

Gunhilda was her given name, but she always went by Hilda.  Her family was Danish and her husband was from Denmark.  A darling looking man named Jorgen, or George once he came to the states.  They were married in 1918 when Hilda was twenty-three years old.

I have read her old postcards often.  I am fascinated by her friends’ scripts and brief notations.  How sweet to receive such correspondence on a snowy day.

20180803_064737

I put on one of the aprons that Hilda made.  They are starting to fray but they are sturdy and lovely in their simple way.  A good sized pocket to gather eggs.

20180802_154614

I will make tea for the ladies that might come by for a visit.  Just as she would have done in that farmhouse past the rows of corn a hundred years ago and just as women will do a hundred years from now.  We are all connected by that nurturing spirit, love of family and community, and of simple things like hand painted dishes so fine.

The Joys of a Simple Life (goals, self reliance, a day in the life)

IMG_1113

Forget January first as New Year’s!  That is only one time of pondering goals for a homesteader.  There are several pivotal times in the year that homesteaders like us take stock and decide and dream and implement plans for the year.

IMG_1021

Our average spring day starts at dawn with strong cups of coffee.  Doug reads the news and I write.  We do outdoor farm chores like milking, feeding goats and sheep, letting the chickens and ducks out and making sure they are cared for.  We plant as the weather allows, watching the weather and clouds like an addiction.  Preparing soil, adding beds, caring for plants.

IMG_1095

Doug fixes fences and puts up gates.  He repairs things damaged from winter and makes sure we have plenty of firewood curing and in the house for the still chilly nights. We watch our beautiful granddaughter.  She wants to be a part of everything, carrying wood, making cheese, doing dishes.

papa and baby

I keep up the farmhouse and put three meals a day on the table.  I preserve throughout the year to keep the pantry rotating.  Five pints of meat sauce put up the other day, seven quarts of broth last week.  Cheese rests in brine on the stove. (I will teach you that next week!)

IMG_2831

We watch owls swoop by, worry about family members from a distance, pray for sunny days, and relax in the evenings after milking, reading by oil lamp.  We lead a simple, busy, enchanting life.  In order to keep this lifestyle we have to find everything possible that we can do ourselves.  This allows us to live on very little money and enjoy the profound satisfaction of doing things ourselves.  We live softly on the planet and provide healthy food and peaceful living for ourselves and our children that came home.

IMG_2820

For the past six years we have added skill by skill and vast achievements but this year I would like to go one step further and do these things more intensely, more prolifically.  I have grown all my own green beans, but how about all our corn?  I have sewed a skirt, how about sew what I need this year? (I am in dreadful need of new aprons)  So, these are my goals for the next two and a half seasons and of course you will be drug along with me through my writings to see just how self-reliant we can be and how satisfying it is to live a life of freedom and work by hand and I hope I can inspire you to step back and live a little more simply and old fashioned too.

Can I: Grow all my own fruits and vegetables?

Make my own wine?

Prepare my own spices?

Make all my own dairy products?

Provide some of my own meat?  And source the rest from friends? (Whole Foods is killing me y’all!)

Bake all my own breads, tortillas, rolls, etc.?

Stock, organize, and fill staples so that we can practically eliminate the need to go to the store?

Grow enough variety to satisfy us?

Be creative with recipes?

IMG_1085

These are my goals for my farmhouse kitchen.  I have a list of what we need to reserve for winter.  How to improve my relationships. What to sew. How to rearrange the living room and kitchen.  But most of all I need to be present, unfettered,  and loving.  I need to not get so busy that I forget to hug my husband, sit and watch the rain from the window, read a good book, or play with the baby.  Our old lifestyle allowed a two week vacation.  This one allows a bit every day.  This is truly the best life for us.

Farm Days (goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, and trucks)

IMG_0935

Our little snow globe over here is thick with fog and freezing drizzle this morning.  Hopefully it will burn off soon.  We have a very large space of pasture that we are fencing in.  It has five rows of barbed wire around it, it just needs to be sectioned off from the rest of the ten acres but this goat and sheep mama is rather paranoid.  Coyotes!  Lambs and goat kids escaping!  It wouldn’t be hard.  My old greyhound will skirt under the wires if he feels the need to run five miles.  So pasture fencing will surround the space giving the adorable ruminants room to spread out and more grass to eat.

IMG_0897

feeding time

feeding time 2

This is the last week that the babies get bottles.  I am not sure who will be more devastated, the lambs or Maryjane!  She considers it her farm work.  As soon as we pull into the drive, scarcely awake from her groggy nap down fifty minutes of country roads, she jumps down and starts jabbering away about lambs and milk and bottles.  Nothing the untrained ear would understand, but I can see her excitement.  We may have a new baby next week from our friend’s farm, our own goats are due here in a few weeks and there will be plenty more bottle feeding opportunities for our mini-farmgirl!

baby chicken

We are getting ducklings this week and today we pick up our farm truck.  Good thing since we need fencing!  This fog makes me want to join the cats though.

IMG_0933

Time to throw back another cup of joe and get to my farm chores.  I leave you with a lovely quote and a wish for a joyous day!

george

Canning Sweet Corn

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to learn to can.  It seems that it skipped a generation and very few people my age even know how to can.  Folks think it is easier to buy food from the store.  I disagree.  How many hours does one have to work in order to buy food?  I would rather spend those hours in the garden or at the farmers market.  In just a few hours one can turn an entire bag of corn into several jars of delicious sweet corn, summer flavor locked in, to enjoy all winter.  It is a rather nice task with huge rewards.

SAM_0534

Not only do you know where your food is coming from, how it was raised, how long ago it was harvested, how big the footprint is, and if it is organic, but you also provide yourself food security.  Big snow storm?  No job?  Car broke down?  Can’t get to the store?  No problem.  The grocery store is in the basement.

IMG_0806

I am not growing enough to can yet.  Each stalk will produce 1-2 good ears of corn.  I got a big bag of corn from Miller Farms (they are not certified organic, but I know for a fact that they do not use pesticides, fertilizers, or any kind of herbicide.  They also use non-GMO corn) and went to work.

SAM_0524

1. Shuck a big bag of corn and cut corn off of cobs with a sharp knife.  Give cobs to chickens and ducks.  They love corn day!  Give the outer leaves to the goats.  They love them!  Save the corn silk in a paper bag for healing up urinary tract infections.  Just make into tea with a handful of cranberries and juniper berries and honey.

SAM_0522

2. Fill warm jars with corn to half an inch from the rim.  Add 1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt to pints, 1 teaspoon to quarts.  Fill jars to 1/2 an inch from rim with a kettle of hot water.  Wipe off rim and put on lid.

SAM_0523

3. Fill the pressure canner with three inches of water.  Put jars in canner.  Attach lid.  (Note: the new pressure canners are inexpensive and not our great-grandma’s pressure canners.  They do not blow up!  There is no fear using one!)  Turn on high and when the shaker starts shakin’ and it sounds like you ought to be belly dancing, then start timing.  55 minutes for pints, 85 minutes for quarts.  For high altitude canning, always use all the weights.  For the rest of the world use 10 lbs of pressure.

A burlap bag 2/3 full made 10 pints of corn and 3 quarts of corn.  I need thirty jars to get through winter (we love corn) so I’ll need another bag!

Home Sweet Home (old home sweet farm)

SAM_0639

I know folks love three day weekends.  After three days of graduation parties, farmer’s market, barbeques, and a bad tummy ache, I am happy to be home today.

There is magic in an old farmhouse.  My cousin came over the other day to drop off a wedding invitation.  She was friends with one of the original owners of this house.  They were here many years, she said.  The kitchen is exactly the same.  There is a lot more clutter here now.  The original Mrs. of the house kept a sparse, clean home.

“They didn’t have much”, Janet recalled, “but it was always pristine.”

A couch.  A large rug.  Everything in its place.  Makes me want to run through and get rid of some more stuff.  The original Mrs. wouldn’t be too happy with me.

IMG_1546

The light filters in the large south window in the kitchen illuminating everything as I make coffee early.  Other friends came over to visit yesterday and pointed out the cabinet handles.  Something I never noticed.

“They are like sterling silver,” Trish ahhed.

The house speaks to me.  It is filled with promise and hope.  The old well is covered up in the back yard.  Bits of the coal chute and furnace are here and there.  Original steps to the cellar to heat the house with the coal stove.  The old kitchen and its beautiful white farmhouse sink, now showing its use and age.  Glimmers of wall paper show through the paint.  The original chimney, now not attached to anything, falls in with fatigue.

IMG_0732

But the house has promise, even a renter can see that.  We are happy to be working around the large yard, in the gardens that would have made the original owners proud and provided sustenance in the cold winters.  Walking around history and making new history is a mesmerizing task.  This week I will paint the porch, perhaps robin’s egg blue, and tend to the vast beds of vegetables and herbs.  I will make cheese from our goat’s milk, and get the ducks a swimming pool.  I will hang clothes on the line and swat at the Miller moths.  I will stay home and be a farm wife just as the great women before me did.  We will watch our granddaughter discover her surroundings and we will make new memories, new history, in this old rental house.

Home sweet home.

Farmgirl Business

margarita

Now, I don’t mean business as in financial business.  Though every good farmgirl should know how to create and run a business as well as keep a household running for under $25K a year.  I am meaning personal business.  I know we farmgirls are busy gardening, canning, working, keeping a family together, cleaning the house, taking care of animals, taking care of everyone else, and getting hot food on the table every day, but Honey, there comes a time when we farmgirls need a break.  At the point that one finds themself without a shower for a week, ready to throw hubby out, close to strangling one or two animals, whilst planning one’s runaway to California to a.) Join the circus or b.) Get a job in a vineyard, one may consider taking a few moments of rest and recuperation and pulling oneself together.  For nervous breakdowns in farmgirls are neither attractive nor practical.

Now, go get that cocktail and your farm book…or trashy romance…and relax a bit.