Consecration Acres

"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy."

Various ends in sight

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Some ends are sad, and some are not.  For instance, we’ve been dealing with a cold at our house for the last two weeks–glacially slow progression, not too horrible all-in-all, but a lot of crankiness, runny noses and coughing.  Joseph, of course, caught it and has kept me up a lot. Sometimes he would be up coughing and needing me and sometimes he would lie there sleeping, sounding a bit like he was breathing through jello while I listened and anticipated him waking up and prayed over and over that it would not settle into his chest.  Happily, I think we are finally beginning to see the end of it.  The last couple of nights have been a bit better and I am finally getting to bed before I start hallucinating.  Woohoo!  I am grateful for prayers answered and that he has a sturdy little immune system.  Two viruses down so far…

I know that the end of summer is often a cause for mourning in colder climes, but for a New England girl living in a place that only sees a couple of months of sub-80s temperatures, it is marvelous. I get to monitor the indoor climate all the long, hot summer—watching the forecast temperatures, comparing indoor and outdoor temperatures, opening windows when it cools, closing them when it starts to warm, determining when the evaporative cooler should be run and when to turn on the whole house fan. It’s better this year since I’m not getting up at 4am to close things up (the cooler gives me some leeway), but I still eagerly anticipate the season’s end and our open-window seasons sandwiched around woodstove season. We actually got some measurable rainfall this week. Average for September here is about ½” and we are nearly to 1”! It caused issues with flooding and landslides up at the wildfire, but that was the day they finally surpassed 50% containment, so it seems that it helped some as well.

We are hoping that the rain will also help all our seeds to grow. The beets, lettuce and chard have all sprouted and we planted our pasture test plots today. Here is a picture of Isaiah sowing the alfalfa plot:The Sower, Jean-François Millet,  1850

ok, but he did make a nice little pocket for the seeds out of the bottom of his shirt and it was hard not to envision this painting as he worked. Seven years of art history will do that, I guess. The plots are 8’x8’ and close enough to the house not to be neglected. We worked really hard not to overprepare the plots. I kept saying, “imagine we are doing this over a whole acre” and we left some rocks and didn’t hand-pull much of anything. The soil there is really shallow, the weeds are established and it gets full sun in the afternoon, so it should give us a good idea of what, if anything, will grow and withstand all our worst conditions. We will pray and watch and hopefully learn a lot.

The washing machine that we thought we had fixed was actually still broken. Elijah put in an extra load on Tuesday and as the girls and I headed out to go buy those last peaches of the season, we squished and splashed into the laundry room and then slopped back out again. Bah. We ended up ordering a part for the washer. The website proclaimed that parts shipped to CA would arrive the day after they were ordered. By the time we figured out what we needed it was after 5:00, but I figured that should still get it here by Thursday, just one day after laundry day. By Thursday afternoon I was starting to wonder where it was and clicked through to the tracking info and discovered that it would not arrive until this upcoming TUESDAY. When I told Isaiah the horrible, awful news, he lit up like a Christmas tree. “Can we try out the emergency washer?!” Sure. And so he and Bethel spent four happy hours the next day washing laundry in buckets with this thingy. When I went outside to check on them, they had Joseph’s laundry on the patio and were stomping the water out of it. When I told them that they couldn’t do that, they protested that they had hosed it off first. I made them wash it again and wring it by smashing it inside a clean bucket with holes drilled into it. I’m afraid they still used their feet to tamp it (despite my instructions), but I imagine they were almost clean by that point. Remind me not to use any of those burp diapers in or close to Joseph’s mouth this week… This just illustrates several points of difference between mothers and their children: I wrote an indignant note to the parts supply company and they delightedly hand- and foot-washed the laundry.

I think we have now solved the mystery of the weird cheese. On Monday I went to go finally make ricotta from the mozzarella whey (it was very well-ripened), added vinegar, turned on the heat, surpassed 200F (of course, for it is the avec le bebe variety of ricotta), wiped up the boiled-over mess and began to ladle it into a colander lined with muslin. I had two gallons of whey and only a one gallon colander, but there is never very much ricotta so I wasn’t concerned. Until I realized that they whey was not draining. I figured the ricotta must be clogging the muslin so I got out a spoon and started scraping, but even then I only got a few drops. After spending way too much time at this for very small gains, I got out a second colander and muslin. I found the same issue with that muslin. Apparently, the boiling I was doing to try and deodorize and sterilize my muslins had cooked the milk proteins into the fabric and effectively waterproofed it! No wonder my cheeses were weird—I might as well have tried to drain them in plastic wrap. Fortunately, I have yards of unused muslin. Elijah commented, “Well, at least now you know how to waterproof a tent.” Yep, make cheese with it and then boil it.

I am looking forward to the end of the meat birds. While they have been able to be outside and in the sun and the dirt, the electric fence never got set up and their situation is significantly more confined than I would prefer. Their date with destiny means an end to my guilt over not having provided them more room to roam… I just couldn’t get out there to do it myself and couldn’t squeeze the project out of the kids either. I am also a little worried about the sorting process and will be glad when that’s over. The old Rhode Island Reds need to be culled from the laying flock for stew and the three remaining Delaware hens need to be spared on butchering day. The boys insist that they know which are which…I wish I were as confident. Also, they look huge, but I need to figure out how to weigh them to verify their hugeness before butchering. Someone online suggested putting them in a bag—that they would not struggle or hurt themselves inside a bag. Really? I guess it’s worth a try.

The new freezer arrived this week. My husband opted for a bigger one than I had planned, but as it’s half again as big for only a third again the price, I suppose it makes financial sense. It will be nice to have the additional space.

The sauerkraut I started today had enough brine to cover by the time I was done packing the jar! I know this may not sound exciting, but I have had a run of dry cabbages lately that I’ve really had to keep an eye on brine-wise. I’ve also decreased the amount of salt a little. Today was 4 lbs shredded cabbage to 2 Tablespoons of salt. And I didn’t inoculate it with anything—no probiotics, whey or old sauerkraut juice. We greatly preferred the long-ferment, un-inoculated batch last time, so we’ll stick with that and only inoculate in sauerkraut emergencies.

With Joseph not sleeping well lately, he ends up really out of sorts by late afternoon and kept falling asleep just long enough to take the edge off, but not long enough to make him happy. One day when he did this I was sitting on the couch with Grace and one of the older kids brought him out to me. I took him and he was facing Grace and, suddenly, he pushed away from me and started crying hard. I was afraid that she had done something to hurt him and questioned her and then looked down at her face. She was on the verge of tears, trying to tell Joseph that he shouldn’t cry when she smiled at him. She was completely heartbroken and sobbed and sobbed while I tried to comfort her, talking about how tired and sad Joseph was because of his cold. Fortunately, her crying kind of shocked Joseph out of it and he watched her curiously, then finally leaned forward, grabbed her hair and smiled broadly. Grace immediately stopped, smiled through her tears and said “He loves me! We are friends!” How fragile and vulnerable are hearts that love…

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