Consecration Acres

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


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Wild weeks

There’s no other way to put it—these last two weeks have been unlike any other. Combining our household with that of the family evacuated by the fire was hugely challenging. I think if it had just been adults, it would not have been a big deal, but I vastly underestimated the kid issues. Our house is big, but very open and a challenge, under normal circumstances, for those of my family who need quiet and privacy to recharge! A couple times I just packed up my kids and took them off for the day, regardless of chores. The house got messier, but I think it was probably good for our family and theirs. On the flip side, we enjoyed far-too-late-night conversations with the couple and are really happy that we were in a position to help out. Their new baby boy was born this Thursday night, after about three days of on-again off-again labor. Issues with the birth and the baby caused them to decide to take mom and baby to the hospital about two hours after he was born. When it became evident that it would be a longer stay than the couple of hours they had hoped for, they decided to move the kids to a relative’s apartment near the hospital and that they would then move directly home again after all the medical issues were resolved. And so most of their stuff was moved out on Friday night—the rest will go when they move back home. Anyhow, after spending two weeks with them all, even in the midst of enjoying a little more space, privacy and quiet, I find myself wondering and worrying about them a lot and feeling like something is missing. Throughout this experience, a scripture kept running through my head, “think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all…” When I teach this to my kids I emphasize the connection between familiar and family and that we are to treat everyone as if they were family. Perhaps these feelings are evidence of having approached that end.

And now to the mundane records and details of these weeks.

Joseph got along with their boys for about three days and then decided that he’d had enough, so we always had to have someone watching him closely, often holding him, and sometimes in an entirely different room from the others—which is extremely challenging with an open floor plan (an awful design for a house that is nearly always occupied by a large family, in my most humble opinion). The baby gate was often used to keep kids away from each other instead of out of rooms where they shouldn’t be. Anyways, with a Fall garden not yet planted and a little boy who could no longer play nicely, I decided to try to plant with him. It went okayish. I think he mangled my rows of Chioggia beets—I will either have gaps or crazy spacing in one section, and he fell and whacked his head on a planter box at one point—a lovely shade of green today, but for the most part he enjoyed being outside, digging in the dirt and eating tomatoes straight off the plants and I managed to get carrots, beets, radishes and the rest of the leeks (leek seed is only good for one year, so I figured it would be better to get tiny baby leeks than no leeks at all) planted. I still need to label and mulch the rest of the beets, but that’s one bed down, two more to go!

I harvested 28 more lbs of eggplant just two weeks after I harvested that other 25! I made two large, eggplant-heavy meals (Moussaka and Ratatouille) for this giant household and then sliced and dehydrated the rest. Between everything I have frozen, pickled, makdoused and now dehydrated, when the world all comes crashing down, we will surely be eating eggplant. And I think we need to revisit the number of eggplant plants we put in next year.

The jalapeno peppers are also coming on thick and fast. Elijah’s promises to keep up all swimming in salsa haven’t yet materialized, so I started two pints of peppers fermenting this week. I was going to try a whey ferment, but after talking to the mom of the family staying with us about her whey fermenting experience I decided just to brine them. For my future records, I used one scant Tablespoon of salt per pint of sliced peppers (perhaps eight peppers to a jar?). I messed up on the second jar and initially filled it with instant hot water instead of filtered water. I dumped it out and re-filled and salted the jar, but if one is softer and perhaps saltier than the other, that may be the reason behind it. I believe I started them on Wednesday, the 23rd, so they’ll need to be checked this Wednesday….not sure how I’m going to do that… As we have approximately a million more coming ripe, I think drying is next.

I am also drying the rest of our not-very sweet corn. After about the third time of being disappointed by the corn, I could no longer get anyone to go out and pick and husk it anymore, so a bunch of it has been drying on the stalk. I pulled the last of it off, gave a couple damaged ears to the chickens and pulled back the husks of the others to finish drying. Right now I wish I had exposed beams in my kitchen ceiling from which I could hang all my dried and drying foods.

Finally, I think we missed the potato harvest time (newbies). It appears that the potatoes are re-sprouting. Yay. We’ll try to catch it this next time around.

And I canned a second batch of pears. It was one of my worst canning sessions in a while. Two jars broke and one failed to seal. I either offended the capricious gods of canning, or else missed something because I was really tired that morning, I don’t know. If it is the former, I hope that they are happy with the toll they exacted and will allow me to can applesauce in peace come October.

And the last of the news is that Bud’s castration was only half successful (woohoo) and so we are desperately trying to sell him while he can either still be wethered (I’m definitely not up to doing such a big goat) or eaten before he starts getting smelly. Of course, if someone wants a buck, he is a purebred Nubian, he seems very much interested in buck-ish duties (we have had to separate him from the ladies) and he is a great price. We are hoping someone will be able to benefit in some way from our mistake so we will not have to feel quite so embarrassed by it.

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Pre-winter preparations and wildfire

The beginning of this week saw the departure of my husband and Elijah for a three-day backpacking trip, as well as a return to triple digits. As Grace reeled without her Daddy and the rest of us tried to make up for their absence in various ways (and got really sweaty), we missed them a lot and were glad to have them return on Wednesday afternoon.

My husband took the rest of the week off. While broiling temperatures prevented much outside work past about 10am, we managed to take a trailer load of trash to the dump (just from the garage!) and a giant load of cardboard to recycling on Thursday. The following day, my husband and the two older boys hauled 5 cords of wood onto the place and got pallets to stack it all on. If we have a typical cool and rainy El Nino year, we should have about twice as much wood as we need. If we the drought continues, we’ll have about four times as much as we need…we are hoping and praying for the former even if it means we’ll use more wood!

I have continued to hack away at the eggplants and now peppers as well. I finished the makdous. My husband ate nearly half the first jar as soon as he got home. I haven’t tried them yet…still gathering my courage for that. The tomatoes are looking crispy and stressed after this week, but I am still hoping that they’ll come around and that I’ll be singing the song of too many tomatoes before our first frost hits.

And I canned chicken for the first time. The chicken (boneless, skinless breasts were on sale from the store) was pretty dry going into the jars and I’m pretty sure 75 minutes in a pressure canner did not improve it, but I’ve got my feet wet on the meat canning thing and I’m happy to add those 7 jars to my stash.

The craziest news is that we will likely have another baby born at our house—but that this is not THAT type of announcement. Just as I was thinking that we had nearly gotten through wildfire season without anything near us burning up, a wildfire started just an hour away on Wednesday and absolutely exploded. This morning they are reporting over 72,000 acres burned and nearing 150 homes lost. Yesterday I stayed home from Church with the three youngers who were sniffling and coughing (we couldn’t tell if it was smoke-related or colds, and so we played it safe), but my husband talked to a friend there who was really worried about a family they knew who had been evacuated with their three little boys and the mom 42 weeks pregnant. They had been planning on a home birth and now had no home. Long story short, they are here now. Back even before we moved here, I started feeling prompted to gather supplies for mommas and babies—birth kits and things for newborns. The scripture “woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days” (Matthew 24:19) has always made me so achy-hearted. Anyhow, I did a little here and there, but the expense if it all held me back from getting it finished, until early this year I couldn’t stand it any more, bit the bullet and did it. I felt peaceful right after it was purchased, but as I sorted and stored and sorted and stored, I looked at the ark I’d built in the middle of the desert and prayed and prayed that I’d know how the Lord wanted me to use it. I looked a little bit into donating it, but it didn’t feel right. Anyhow, here we are. I am grateful that I listened and that we can make this all a little less awful for them.


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Eggplant Explosion

The garden continues to awaken out of its heat-induced coma. I went out to the garden last Monday hoping to find 3 lbs of baby eggplants so that I could make makdous. Elijah told me that there might be that many, plus “a few” larger ones, so I grabbed a one-gallon bucket and headed out. I found that the Japanese eggplants were struggling—the plants were wilting and many of the eggplants were shriveling—but I still got about 2 lbs of small fruits that were sufficiently plump for my purposes as well as some larger ones that could be used in another dish. Next I turned my attention to the globe eggplants to try to find another lb of little ones. I quickly found what I needed and then started harvesting the full-grown ones. My bucket was full so I grabbed an old orchard-watering bucket (from the pre-drip era) and transferred the big ones into it. I picked and I picked and I picked and I picked and I picked and ended up hauling a little over 6 gallons (25 lbs!) of eggplants into the house. We love ratatouille and baba ghanoush and baingan bhartha and moussaka as well as thai curries with eggplant, but there is a certain point… So, I’ve frozen it, and pickled it this week and eaten meals with it, and I still have a bunch left. I think I just need to slice it up and dry it. I hear it’s a little stronger tasting, but still good when rehydrated and I certainly have enough that I can afford to experiment!

And I made my makdous. This one of those traditional foods that, if it ever became popular—say the McMakdous became all the latest rage—it would almost certainly become illegal because it’s just so….non-compliant with today’s food safety standards. Much like cheesemaking, buttermilk-making, yogurt-making, sauerkraut-making—you kind of stop and look at what you are doing and say, “if all that I think I know is true then this really ought to kill me”. But then you eat it and it doesn’t, and it’s delicious too. So I guess sometimes we just have to choose between the risks of homemade raw milk chevre and perfectly safe and sterile cheezwhiz in a can. Tough one. Anyhow, the makdous look right, smell right (except for a couple that smelled moldy that I threw at the chickens) and they are now sitting in olive oil, waiting for someone brave enough to taste the first one…

I also canned my first batch of pears this week. As I am over the womens’ provident living efforts at our church, I came up with this idea of “canning mentorship”. This is that those who want to learn to can certain specific items sign up, and then those who are canning those items let them know when they are going to do so, the newbies come over, lend a hand and learn the process, and then can go home and do it themselves. It’s a little different structure-wise from what we are all used to (mostly sit-in-a-classroom and listen to a lesson stuff) and we’re still working the kinks out (scheduling around ripening fruit is always a good trick), but I think it’s going ok. My group dwindled to just one last week, but, hey, that is one more pear canner than the world had before! I’ll do another batch in a couple of weeks and see if I can get the other three then. I do have to say, I felt a little guilty sending her home without any pears after she prepped three jars for me. Maybe next time I’ll have everyone bring a quart jar and I’ll send them home with a full one.

We are trying to get things all set and ready for winter (whenever that happens…triple-digits again this week). Hay went on sale and we stocked up and then on Saturday my husband and the boys brought home our first firewood. We found someone who lives just fifteen minutes away with a bunch of nice live oak firewood. It was nice enough that my husband committed to buy everything he had left—we’ll pick it up bit by bit over the course of the week. We’ve still got to get the chimney swept before we try it out.

We are also working on infrastructure. I think I have some easy structures to keep the wood off the ground and dry and we’ve finally decided to go ahead and roof about half the stalls. When we bought them shortly after we moved here, we were assured by the seller that it would be easy to add a roof if we ever wanted to…we have not found it to be so… It’s going to be a bit pricey, but it will give us space and protection for all the goats and a nice big area for hay. Enabling bulk purchases of hay should help us get our costs down a little…not enough to recoup the roof costs anytime in the next decade, but still…

Also, Isaiah replaced the bottom of the layers’ coop and set up the second electronet to expand their run a bit. The layers moved into it tonight and the meat birds will migrate into the grazing pen and electronet tomorrow night.   Yay!

And I’ve decided to go ahead and start building again. I have really missed it, and my shoulder is doing a bit better, so I’m just going to be careful (my diastasis is still being rottenly stubborn) and build myself a bed! My husband and I have been back and forth on the Master suite wood stove a dozen times. It is hard to plunk down that much money for a stove that would be used for only brief periods of time (to keep from overheating the room) for only 2-3 months of the year. So plan B is to build a canopy bed and fully enclose it in the winter at night. I think that between that, the heat from the main room and solar gain during the daytime and my much-beloved electric blanket, we should stay sufficiently toasty. If I am wrong, I am sure that the woodstove store will still be happy to take our money later on.