I’ve been enjoying technology lately, more so than usual and am even taking advantage of my new-ish smart phone while milking the goats in the morning. Since my IPod went kaput, and having been on milking hiatus for months due to sickness, it was taking me a little while to get back into the rhythm of things. Especially milking Heidi, my sweet lil Toggenburg with the teeniest finger teats. Milking her can be exasperating. So I turned to pulling my mind away from the task at hand and just letting my hands do what they know to do~ by watching You Tube videos on my phone. And I’m loving it because I get to learn (which I’m a fiend of) mostly uninterrupted. And you know You Tube~ you watch one video and it automatically filters out others like it. I started out with a Susun Weed interview and have since stumbled onto other fun herbal stuff, which are both helpful and inspiring. I’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate video into Folkways, but being that I’m really not one for talking to a camera… I gotta work on that. Either way, I’m enjoying the lesson time, and the girls don’t seem to mind at all.
About a month ago we got a phone call asking if we could take in a couple of wandering chickens. Wandering~ literally into someone’s yard on a busy street. No owner or caretaker could be claimed. Sure. Why not? What’s 2 more chickens? Well, 2 more chickens.
Monday one of our milk customers called with a tale of a middle of the night raccoon woe; lost 2 of their birds with the possibility of a wounded 3rd going soon. We offered her the 2 new girls (I dubbed them Thelma and Louise) which turned into just 1 new girl as we believe the other is a he not a she. Time will tell with that one. Having had our share of raccoon trouble, Niko was immediately sentimental and since the two new birds were not adapting well into the pecking order, we thought to do all a service with the exception of said rooster. Which who knows, if he turns out to be quiet-ish with his crow he may be serviced (*wink wink) and of service after all.
Last night we had our own 4am coon alarm, though couldn’t at first figure out why. With the moon so full we barely needed a flashlight, but all seemed secure. Confused, I went back to bed and Niko told me later they had gotten one of our Jerseys. I still can’t figure out why she wasn’t in the coop. She was never one to fly over the fence or stay out after dusk. When I closed up last night it was already past dark and I had no inclination that anyone was out. Very strange happenings. Poor chicken. The coons at least had the decency to drop her in the compost pile when they were done with her. Niko has been perfecting his bow hunting skills so 3 raccoons may be 2 soon. I would not be opposed. These 3 have plagued us for over a year now and I’m tired of it. I’m considering calling a trapper, but Niko wants a go. If this seems inhumane to any of you, dear readers, then you’ve never seen what a raccoon can do to a flock of chickens.
Losing the Jersey follows the loss of 2 of our older girls as well. One last week, one about 2 months ago. Both unknown causes. Being a farmer and keeping livestock teaches you many lessons of death, and the circle of life that must carry on.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~Mary Oliver
I’ve been awake, easily since 4 am. It’s 5oclock now and I finally decided just to get out of bed. It’s Sunday morning and I can already hear the stirrings of others awake outside my window and I cannot help but wonder what brings them to be about before dawn has even whispered her first breath.
So many things have gone through my mind lately. It has been a difficult season and I’ve allowed a lot of frustration and doubt to fill my empty spaces. Instead of just remembering to let go and trust that life unfolds as it should most of the time, whether we actively intervene or not.
For the last 4 months (the entire first half of the growing season) I have been practically incapacitated. The first trimester of this pregnancy was my most difficult yet and I have been useless to the goings on of the farm. Our gardens have been through hell, unfortunately not to return: our seeds greedily attacked by squirrels before they could even try to discover their roots, young seedlings that we took such care to early start brutally hammered by one freak hailstorm after another, and our established plants that had promise of thriving have for the most part been desecrated by skunks. And I, laid up with horrendous nausea followed by a wicked month long sinus infection and near pneumonia could do nothing to thwart the disaster. My immune system seems to crash with these babies no matter what I do to encourage function.
Niko and I had a date night last night. A much overdue event. I think an occasional date night is very important in a marriage, especially one with children. It reminds you that you are still husband and wife, man and woman, human beings with clear thought and brain power, not to mention a little bit of sensuality. You know, those things that can often be overshadowed by the everyday facets of work to pay the bills and parenthood. The latter being so consuming that not much exists outside of it. Which is, of course, how it should be. For those of us that choose to be parents, it’s the most important job there is. We’re growing and shaping a piece of the future.
Anyway, it was a lovely evening with good food and wine (I only had 1 glass), and nice mellow conversation. Niko is excited about a new venture he is about to undertake (I’ll let him explore that with you) and we talked about the farm.
Things are moving forward with the farm. Though difficult and nerve wracking and scary, they continue to move forward. Our fundraising efforts have almost become non-existent. When I got so sick neither of us had the time (Niko) or energy (me) to push on. Now that I’m better and there is not so much pressure on him to keep us afloat, we can focus again on that intention. It seems appropriate, as the New Moon is rising today and it is once again time to focus on actively pursuing your dreams.
The light is coming now and I hear the birds singing their morning chorus. There is much to do today. We have company coming and the house needs cleaning, the animals and farm tending to… There are dreams to manifest and life to reclaim. It’s a very full day.
Remember what it is you want from this life and go get it. Happy Sunday and Blessed New Moon.
You may have seen last year’s photo of our first homebrew cheese press. As awkward as it appeared, it was actually doing a fine job of squeezing that leftover whey out of the cheese. It was gouda. And it did taste good. There was just this small problem that a pregnant fly had made her way through the protective colander as the cheese sat drying and laid her plethora of eggs right there in our first homemade aged cheese. I sliced off a sliver of the side that was not so maggot-ridden just to have a taste. It was going to be good. But it ended up going to the chickens, since they actually enjoy eating maggots, unlike us so-civilized human creatures.
Brandi had recently checked out a cheese making book from the library and I found it lying around one day when the fridge was overflowing with milk. Within it’s bountiful pages sat a recipe for “White Goat Cheddar” and it sounded like a good thing to try to mess up.
The recipe was quite simple: 1 gallon of pasteurized goat milk, 2 tablespoons of mesophilic starter culture, 3/4 teaspoon of rennet, a bunch of time spent stirring and watching a pot of simmering milk and the resulting curds, and a cheese press.
While the recipe was simple and seemed near at hand, we had none of the prescribed ingredients. Our goat milk is raw, we had only packages of “direct set” mesophilic bacteria and extra concentrated vegetable-based rennet, and nothing resembling a classical cheese press. We did have the time to do it, since time really does count as an ingredient. Confident that we could do just fine with what we had on hand, I dumped a gallon of raw goat milk into a makeshift double boiler and put the process in motion.
The book went so far as to give time figures for how long it should take for the milk to heat up, the culture to ripen the milk, the rennet to set the curds, and the curds to drip away the rest of the whey. It was kind of the author to provide these guidelines, but reality didn’t quite unfold in the same timeline. Even so, raw goat milk turned into a very rubbery cheese-like substance throughout the course of the day, and before long, the time came to figure out just how we were going to apply 40 pounds of pressure to this lump of fermented sludge in order to send it on its way to becoming cheddar cheese.
I enlisted Leelu to help me figure it out. After exploring the options of placing ancient dirty bricks or a 5 gallon bucket of sand atop the cheese-to-be, Leelu found a bungie cord in the van. That discovery sped through my mindspace and led me directly to consider the multitude of ratchet straps that are generally hiding in every vehicle we own. We found one there in the van and joyfully trodded back to the kitchen, intent on victory.
A quick assessment of possible accomplices in our daring mission provided a pair of pot-shaped colanders to hold the cheese and let the whey drain away. The next missing piece was a way for that ratchet strap to apply the needed pressure (that we would never measure to assure it was providing 40 pounds worth…). A log? No, too dirty. A bit of dimensional lumber? Alas, the clean ones laying about were too short and/or skinny to get the job done. What about that flour crock that’s not holding flour? Eureka. And we found our cheese press.
It may not be quite as pretty as those professionally built presses one may purchase from your local homestead supply store, but it is a bit of an improvement over our first attempt of home-pressing cheese. The major flaw in the current design is that there is no lateral limit to the squashing of the cheese. We end up with a fat pancake of cheese, rather than a finely formed wheel. Homebrew Cheese Press v.3.0 will attend to this situation, but for the moment, we continue to squash the cheese with this crock and look forward to enjoying the consumption of said squashed cheese in a month or so, after it has aged its way into a semblance of cheddar.
Last year at this time, my children and I were driving through an intersection when a speeding car ran a red light and crashed into us, changing my life in ways that I still haven’t recovered from. Last year at this time, or rather minutes before, I was driving and laughing with my daughter, taking for granted our safety and well being just because I was an attentive and responsive driver. Because at that moment, someone else was not.
One year later and Leelu still cries at the sound of sirens. Daisy still has pain and trauma from severe whiplash. And their mother cannot get behind the wheel without first actively attempting to release the tension in her knuckles on the steering wheel. I cannot drive on the interstate, or in any other overly stressful situation because it sends me into a nervous wreck and I end up a blubbering, crying fool… so I avoid it for the safety of my own and the other drivers out there. One year later and I still battle insurance companies and credit agencies for thousands of dollars in unpaid hospital fees, adding to the stress and anxiety that I still hold from the severe PTSD caused from that accident.
One year later and I turned 35, and I am so damn grateful to be alive. Leelu is sick and I spent my birthday taking care of her and I am so incredibly thankful to have the privilege to do that. One year later and there is another child growing inside me, blessing my family once more with the gift of new life, new milestones, and new joys. One year later and Daisy prepares to enter her last year of high school with a world of possibilities set before her.
One year later where we still get to pursue our dreams. Together.
It’s one year later. I am so grateful to be here.
It’s 6a.m. and I wake to the birds calling and the sound of a mid June creek rushing through the trees just yards away. The air is still this morning, almost waiting for me to exhale. We are at the Farm. That wild land that holds the visions of our future. This has been my first physical experience of this land. I fell in love with it through Niko’s eyes but had not yet claimed my own first hand feel of it. We arrived late Friday night, Leelu exhausted after the 6 hour drive. My first sight in the light of the morning was not love, I must admit, but to be fair, my first feelings on most things lately are not what they could be. More on that later. We spent the whole day walking, exploring, and dreaming. Niko showed us his favorite rock by the creek. We met the horses. Leelu discovered the joy of throwing rocks in water. Again and again.
While she napped I took a stroll alone and tried to identify some of the wildflowers and trees on the property. I’m still learning but there is an abundance of wild roses that will provide bright red hips come fall. I look forward to that. I met some neighbors and the caretaker of this land. He made me laugh and I’m grateful we have such a knowledgeable steward to learn from. I sat on a rock overlooking one of the pastures while Niko and Leelu were out exploring and it was then that the moment I’d been waiting for came. I felt home. I saw the future sheep in the pasture, the future aspen grove to my left dancing in the evening breeze (the way aspens do), and then I felt myself as an old woman… my dark brown hair having turned silver, sitting on that same rock, watching the sheep in the pasture and the leaves dancing to my left.
This is it. This is home. We just need to find the means and the courage to see it through.
This is my first writing in months, of any kind. You may recall a word or two from me in one of the last few posts that said you’d be hearing from me often. Yeah…, well shortly after making that commitment my brain shut down as well as most of my body in what is commonly known as early pregnancy. It rendered me useless. We are expecting in early December. The nausea has been very difficult this time around and so many efforts were put on hold. Niko had to take over 100% of farm duties on top of his other work. I am just now finding some semblance of normalcy and while the nausea has subsided it has not left. I am functioning better, but still not at full capacity. I do hope it returns soon because when the baby comes that function gets topsy turvy all over again.
So that is why I have been absent these last two and a half months. And while I plan on trying my best to check in, at this point I should realistically say it’ll be once or twice every couple of weeks.
Spring has come and gone and I wish I’d been well enough to take pictures for you. The lilacs, quince, and honeysuckle were breathtaking. We lost one of our old layers recently but also have 6 new chickens and 2 turkeys to occupy space and eventually fill our egg basket. The turkeys will be dinner. Our gardens have had a difficult start this year. Me being mostly out of commission hasn’t helped, but the ridiculous hail storms destroying the work we have done has been devastating. I’m almost weary of putting things out, for fear of more rogue weather.
Two new things I will catch you up on in a later post:
1. Goats are legal!!! City council passed the ordinance allowing two small goats for backyards.
2. After 20+ years, I am no longer a vegetarian.
I’m happy to be (sorta) back. Here are a few happy pictures from the Farm that make me smile.
Over the last few days I have been involved in some very deep spring cleaning. The weather has been a bit too cool to do any extensive work out of doors so I took advantage of being inside to clear a winter’s worth of dust. With Niko and the dog being away, it’s usually somewhat easier to tear things apart. Today as I sit to write this, I feel I can breathe better, although there is still plenty to do. There is always plenty to do.
Leelu and I went to story time at the library this morning. I try to take her at least once a week. She doesn’t get as much social toddler interaction time as I’d like and this is an easy walking distance way to sing and dance with the other sillies. This morning she was unusually participatory which was great. More often than not she is just the great observer, but today she was clapping her hands and rowing her boat with the best of them.
The sky today is overcast but it is nice enough to have the windows open. I hear the soft chinking of the chimes on the front porch and the birds singing their stories back and forth. My house is clean-ish and I am enjoying a mild reprieve with you and an afternoon cup of coffee. Right now, my priorities lie within.
My friend is in the hospital right now, recovering from surgery. My heart has been with her and I think that is why everything feels soft today. My approaches are lighter. My breath is deeper. The choices we make are ultimately ours to make. To be able to do so is a blessing we have as humans. I think collectively, our most important choice is to be grateful. To choose to recognize it as a choice and to practice it with your whole heart. The big thanks and the little thanks. Like right now: I am grateful for this cup of coffee and the daisies smiling at me from my bookshelf. I am grateful for story time with Ms. Tiff. I am grateful for my children and my husband. I am grateful for my friend, her loving and generous spirit, and her courage. I am grateful for the mountain land that will one day be ours and the family that is patiently waiting for it to be so. I am grateful for you. I am grateful for me. These things big and small, and so many others am I grateful for.
It started snowing at 3 yesterday and didn’t stop until well after dark. So I knew when I woke this morning to tend animals I would be in the thick of it.
Disclosure #1: Niko is the farmer on snow days 95% of the time. He’s out of town presently, working some magic on our land dream, so the farmer is me. Uh oh.
After pulling on jeans over my flannel pajama pants, donning 2 pair of my husband’s socks (I own none of my own) and multiple layers of long sleeves plus the best hand me down snow jacket ever, (Also from Niko, via his late grandma Fedgie. I love Fedgie. Pieces of her wardrobe are why I stay warm.) I set to it.
Disclosure #2: I am a full fledged, salt water in her veins, Florida girl. Even though at 17 I left the state and carried my gypsy soul all over the place, it’s where I come from. I grew up on fishing boats in the middle of the ocean, y’all. It took me at least 10 years of winter living, from mild-ish Colorado to drastic Upper Michigan and beyond to learn how to dress properly for the weather. And even now it’s up for debate.
2 buckets of warm water sloshing around my rubber (fishing) boots (thank you, daddy), milk pail and miscellaneous supplies in hand, I was off to the barn. Chickens first. You’d think they’d bum rush after all the hollering they’d been doing, but after a quick look see out their door, they decided better of it. I put fresh water and feed in their coop, collected egg (yes, singular) and made my way for the goats.
Sara was very happy to see me, and thus, slightly irritated when I merely replaced her water bucket and headed to the greenhouse. I do believe she was downright offended. If goats could talk… With Niko gone I have to be extra diligent with watering. More often than not, I just forget. And Spring is about priorities (more on that later). At that moment I had to check in on seedlings before it completely left my mind. With our early starts this year both in the kitchen window and in the greenhouse, I have high hopes for a happy garden. With any luck I can can from my own tomatoes instead of purchasing cases from the farme’rs market, though I will still purchase plenty of other things. Lippis is my favorite. Support your local farmers, y’all.
Our soil is happier this year, too, thanks to the goats. Goat poop~ it’s where it’s at. Our compost pile has never been healthier, and neighbors have reaped the benefits as well.
With milking done, I came inside after shedding hairy, snowy clothes in the mudroom (I think I’ll invest on a good pair of Dickie overalls for easy removal) and started coffee and oatmeal on the stove top. Milk strained, dishes done, I could finally sit down with my girls for breakfast.
That was the first 2 hours of my Sunday morning. How was yours?
Happy Sunday. Happy Springtime. Be grateful everyday.
The thing about sunshine is that you just wanna be in it. It doesn’t matter what else needs to be done. All the tasks that involve being not in the sunshine very simply become something that can wait, and you go about finding new things to do. Like shoveling goat poop. Yep. Shoveling poo can be the most pleasant check off on your to do list if that poo shoveling is done in the sunshine. Yes, Siree. There is no frown that sunshine cannot fix.
It was a beautiful day through and through. We lingered in bed just long enough to enjoy games of undercover hide and seek, that even the teenager came in for after the beckoning holler from her little sister. We enjoyed French toast for breakfast courtesy of an awesome husband/daddy and homemade cinnamon bread. Soooo good! And then the next several hours saw us hard at work and play in the yard, listening to the bees happy buzzing and watching the goats chomp leaves and explore new territory. The first little shoots of Spring are showing their beautiful faces and I am giddy! After yesterdays Homesteading Fair and talking to folks about the farm, today was a perfect continuation of the love and positive energy of moving forward.
Tonight I meet up with my lovely Circle of sisters to learn something new and celebrate this magic moon. It is a blessed day and I am so happy to be here.
So happy. That’s the thing about sunshine.