December is when life is crazy busy, but there’s not much to write about. Every year I want to get the shopping done early, but every year there is something that prevents that from happening. I love giving gifts, but I hate shopping. Maybe it will all be nicer on that mythical day when I “have more time” and I can make more and buy less. Anyhow, that’s done, the last 30 lbs of apples are being cooked into butter as I type and I’m finally getting to bake!
First up was pumpkin fruitcake. When we cleared out the freezers to make room for chickens (and we still don’t have the space!) I had to pull a batch of pumpkin butter out of there. Pumpkin butter is on the no-can list and it was only a mediocre recipe, so I decided to use that in place of canned pumpkin in the fruitcake. It was fabulous. I’ve used three pints so far and have two or three more to go. It’s a good thing we like it. I’d like to try making pumpkin butter again when we have the freezer space for it. This last recipe was too citrusy—I prefer my pumpkin earthy. I’m planning on cooking the squash to the right consistency and then adding the spices from my mom’s pumpkin pie recipe to an equivalent amount of butter.
Sometimes I feel like Winnie-the-Pooh coming up with an idea and then Owl evaluating it, “well, that sounds like a sensible idea…” Like my recent idea to see if I could make mango syrup from the pits and peels of the mangoes I dried. That turned out not to be so sensible an idea. Hopefully, my pumpkin butter idea is better.
I decided to mix it up a little this year and do a little candymaking. We are usually a pretty low-sugar family. On Christmas we let loose for a couple of days, but then we feel it horribly afterwards, so we made reduced-sugar marzipan, peanut butter cups and almond joys, in hopes that we can have our treats and good health as well. They turned out well and I have had to go to great lengths to make them fairly inaccessible so that we will still have some left on Christmas Day.
We are getting awesome amounts of rain and are very grateful! The pond is still very small and muddy, but growing. The grass is all green and the streams flowing and we are having to shift laundry days around to accommodate precipitation. Last week we got more rain than we average for entire month of December! Bethel was saying that it didn’t feel very Christmassy without any snow—I continue to be delighted with what we are getting.
We are seasonably wet, but we have yet to freeze, so we ate cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden this week. We also have jalapenos out there. I suppose I ought to get brave and do something about them before they die. The peas are all hanging on to each other for support—not our intention, but it’s working ok for now. Most of the garlic came up, very little of the lettuce came up, and very little of the chard came up. Growth seems to have slowed with the lower temps, but the hardy stuff should pick up again in late February or March. Our seedbed needs improvement…among a vast array of other things that could and should be improved.
We are trying to eat down our meat freezer to make room for our remaining birds. I cooked up a couple chickens from the last batch. What a wildly different experience from a grocery store bird! First, they were actually roasted rather than stewed in the copious amount of liquid that a store bird exudes during cooking. We ended up with less than ½” nicely carmelized drippings at the end. Second, I made stock from the carcasses. It gelled up perfectly and there was no fat to skim at the end! The whole raising our own meat thing has been a mixed bag along the way, but I’m pretty pleased with the end result.
I just made my first batch of yogurt from frozen milk. It is really liquidy and smells a little different. I don’t know if it’s due to the milk, or just my starter being old. Further experiments required.
The goat situation makes me want to cry sometimes. Isaiah saw signs that Ella was in heat last week and neglected to tell anyone, Elijah wasn’t checking with the buck rag…yay…. I need to call the vet. Penny is a little early to find heart tones via ultrasound , so we might require two housecalls since we still don’t have a trailer….ugh, ugh, ugh and ugh again.
Elijah built a forge out of stones in the backyard and he and Isaiah have been whacking pieces of hot metal with hammers this week. Isaiah also recently completed an ear-warmer (top-less hat) that he proudly wears about. He spun the wool/mohair and then knit it himself. Bethel is getting books for Christmas as she complains she has read “everything” in the house and Jordan is just on the edge of the whole reading thing coming together. I utterly love homeschooling these people.
There is a young man with some significant disabilities who usually sits in the pew in front of us at Church. He sits and listens fairly quietly, and then he reaches his hand out to his father who shares the pew with him. His father reaches back, their fingertips touch briefly and the young man happily goes back to watching and listening. This repeats every few minutes over the course of the meeting. I recognize that I also play this role in the lives of my children. The frequency varies according to their needs, and sometimes it is verbal rather than physical, but they still all stop occasionally to make sure that I am “still there” along the way. It may not be very glamorous or exciting, but I’ve learned to find joy in being a fixed and stable point in their world. As I strive to become more consistent and reliable, I hope that this will make me more like my Heavenly Father—He whose hand is stretched out still, the same yesterday, today and forever.