Back in Business

As of today, I am back in the blue egg business! One of my Ameraucanas, which I actually was concerned was a rooster, left me this beautiful blue egg.

There’s just something about a colorful egg basket. And now I know my young flock is starting to lay!

More Shenanigans

What started out as an uneventful eventful day turned into a fiasco when the new mother of a litter of five brand new puppies vanished. Just vanished.

I was going down to check my chickens and she acted like she wanted to go out. Okay, I thought, she’s been inside all day and her puppies had full bellies. So I let her out. I took care of my chickens and went to locate Pearl, who popped up from down past the shop. I did my due diligence and made sure there wasn’t a surprise puppy down there, and Pearl headed up towards the house. I was close behind her, but just needed to grab something on my way. I took my eyes off her for all of three minutes. And she was gone.

I looked everywhere. And I mean everywhere. I looked for about forty-five minutes before calling my husband, who was up north getting grain. And I kept looking. I took the ATV out and looked, as I said, everywhere. Calling, shouting, scolding, and finally melting into an angry, crying, but still functional mess.

I figured she’d had another puppy in her and went off somewhere to have it. I remembered the elk carcass a mountain lion dragged away, up on top of the ridge and north a ways, and the mountain lion scat I saw closer to home. We’ve had some good sized coyotes getting rather bold. And then the sun started going down.

If it could be gotten into or under, I looked there. And looked again. And Brad got home and we looked again. And then she appeared out of nowhere from by the house, pretty dirty and looking guilty again. We had looked under everything. Except the front deck. We didn’t even know a dog could fit under there. But she did. And sure enough, we could hear a puppy squealing, not near one side or the other, but under the very center of the deck.

So basically we had to partially take the deck apart, which was harder than it should have been, to rescue the miserable, cold little girlie, and thus the entire ridiculous and beautiful family was reunited. Everyone is warm and dry and bellies are full, tight as little drums. Four little girls and two little boys.

All’s well that ends well, I guess. But Pearl is kind of in trouble.

Pearl’s Shenanigans

So it was at the very end of September, I had just emailed a friend and asked if she knew of anyone with a intact male cow dog, since we were looking to breed Pearl. Well, roughly a day later we were helping a neighbor work some cows and I made some offhanded remark that Joe, his dog, seemed to be kind of distracted by Pearl. He was kind of making eyes at her. You know what I mean. Joe even got knocked over by one cow and stepped on by another and ended up in a cast with a broken paw. Apparently Pearl was super distracting.

Later that day, we (ahem) caught them together, if you know what I mean. Very together.

About, oh, a month later I started noticing just a slight fullness in Pearl’s midsection. Then it became very obvious. Pearl was pregnant. We did the math and we figured she’d have her pups…well, right now. The first week of December.

This morning, Brad left early to haul some open cows to the St. Onge sale barn and Pearl didn’t even budge from her little bed. A couple of hours later, the first pup showed up. I was in the living room and heard something in the mud room and thought a cat had sneaked in. There was Pearl standing in the corner and a little wet pup was wailing on the dog bed.

Pearl seemed confused about the presence of the little alien and paced around looking guilty. I coaxed her over to the dog bed, made her lay down and helped the pup find a teat. Maternal instinct was quick to kick in. It is so amazing to watch!

And just a few minutes ago the second appeared! And then a third. That’s all for now. But I’m pretty darn sure there’s more to come.

Pearl thinks they’re beautiful. I agree.

Recipes | Easy Trail Mix

Okay, so this barely qualifies as a recipe. It really doesn’t. But there isn’t another comparable word for a “handful of this, handful of that, shake it up” sort of concoction. But it has become one of our favorite quick snacks! Not to mention, this old coffee cannister is pretty nostalgic for me – It recalls years of memories of my grandparents and their delicious chocolate chip cookies, since this served as their cookie jar as far back as I can remember.

Anyway, Brad and I eat a lot of nut mixes and trail mixes. We come in from chores or cow work and just need a quick snack mid-morning, and a handful of something, oftentimes peanuts or cashews, generally does the trick. We had found a couple of really good trail mixes at Sam’s Club, but we ate enough of them that I finally decided I wanted to start just mixing our own trail mix. As silly or simple as this might sound, we enjoy the homemade version better than the store bought versions.

Pick from a variety of nuts, M&Ms or chocolate pieces, and dried fruit, add desired quantities and shake it all up! You can go sweet or savory, with seasoned or unseasoned nuts, roasted or raw, salted or not, and the list goes on. If you want to get a little fancier, you could toss your mix with a little olive oil and a seasoning of your choice, and bake briefly in the oven. The possibilities are endless.

This one is peanuts, almonds, M&Ms, and raisins. There were supposed to be cashews, but I think I accidentally ate them all before I got around to mixing this up. I made a second jar for myself without raisins. Brad pointed out that there were twice as many M&Ms in my jar as in his jar, but I pointed out that he got all the raisins. Fair’s fair.

Dirt and Daydreams

As I walked down from Grandma’s house this evening, back to the cabin my sister and I share, and I caught a glimpse of the laundry hanging on the line and our ever-expanding container garden on our porch, with the evening sun streaming gold across the green of everything, it all seemed so perfect. My castle, I thought. One of the joys of living in a small house in the country is that the outdoors becomes an extension of everything that happens inside. It is almost as if the front door didn’t exist. This summer has been a delightful time spent largely outdoors, getting dirt under my fingernails, callouses on my hands, getting sunburned, sweaty, and stronger.

I love getting to the end of each day and actually being tired, and waking in the morning with muscles sore from the day before. I even love ruefully slathering aloe on sunburned shoulders because I forgot sunscreen while mowing the lawn. I love the sweat trickling down my back and down my face, and the dried mud on my pants. I love the nuisance of driving our laundry up to Grandma’s since we are without a washer or dryer, and the peacefulness of hanging the clean, wet laundry on our clothes line and watching it flutter in the breeze. I love our pots of tomatoes lined up neatly on our porch, and the overflowing planters and hanging baskets filled with a cacophony of color, flowers flashing and sparkling in the sun like gemstones. I love looking down at dirt- and sweat-streaked arms and filthy hands after planting flowers or starting seeds, and I love the quiet task of watering everything. I love the summer sights around our house – the wildflowers, Trixie lounging on top of her dog house, the cats frisking in the yard. I love morning or evening walks or runs.  I love the tasks that keep me outside, those things that blur the line between indoors and out. IMG_7947eIMG_7486IMG_7953eIMG_7941eIMG_7926eIMG_7919eIMG_7908eIMG_7814eGod has sure blessed me in ways I didn’t even know I wanted…with a country life full of color, dirt, and sweet daydreams.



The Freedom of Inconvenience

There is something wonderfully simple yet gloriously complex about the process of watching the tree bud out in the springtime, watching the flowers shed their petals and be replaced by infant fruit, then watching the fruit mature, and ripen, then picking that fruit at the right time and processing it, canning it as various delectable spreads or syrups or sauces, stacking the jars neatly in the pantry to be used at a future date…the process is immensely satisfying. I love the thought that must go into identifying the fruit, identifying its readiness to be harvested, sorting it, juicing it, and canning it. The thought and learned skill that goes into the entire process, whether it be the observation and waiting, or the careful, gentle work, the meticulousness, the specificity – they all contribute to the satisfaction I get when looking at a row of jars of jewel-bright jelly.
IMG_3912And yet the whole process is terribly inconvenient, to our modern way of thinking. I was in the middle of making a batch of spicy wild plum sauce, and Sarah commented facetiously on “how much money we’d save” on spicy plum sauce, by having canned it ourselves. “Wait…we don’t buy spicy plum sauce.” And she is right. We don’t. I’ve never tasted spicy plum sauce, I’ve never used it, and I didn’t even know it was a thing until I found the recipe and decided to use some of my wild plums to make it. Why bother, honestly?

As I have been canning over the past few weeks, it has occurred to me how much time actually goes into very little of a finished product. The time it takes to pick fruit and properly process it means a lot of time goes into each finished jar. It would be so much faster just to buy it at the store.

But there is no satisfaction when admiring a jar of store-bought jelly, or a factory-sewn skirt, or thawing out a frozen meal. The satisfaction comes from having a task, completing the task, and knowing it was completed well. There is something deeply fulfilling about being capable of taking a task from start to finish, whether in the process of foraging and food preservation, or in the art and science of reading a sewing pattern and ending up with a beautiful handmade garment or other item. There is something joyous about starting with an empty stockpot, and serving up something delicious from scratch. There is something invigorating about taking a cluttered house and turning it into a haven, or taking a pile of laundry and seeing it flutter clean and fresh in the sunlit breeze.

My 40-minute commute to work could be seen as an inconvenience or as an opportunity to pray, listen to music, or just to ponder life. Our 45-minute drive to church is time to visit with family. The time it takes to do dishes by hand is time my sisters and I like to spend listening to podcasts or laughing with one another. When I have a task like canning that requires hours of my time, it is freeing and invigorating to be forced to slow down for the time it takes to accomplish that task and focus on one single thing, rather than the million “important things” that crowd into my mind. It is freeing to have to stand outside in the sun and fresh air while hanging a load of clean, wet laundry on the clothesline. It is freeing to be carefully chopping vegetables for a fresh soup. It is freeing to kneel over a length of fabric, pins in hand, or feed the fabric carefully through a sewing machine.

The inconvenience is freedom to me.