Consecration Acres

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


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Checking in

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year.

I had a gut feeling that this move would be a hard one, and it has been.  I keep thinking of that “peace that passeth all understanding”, peace in the midst of not-peaceful things.  This move has been sure-ness in the midst of things making us unsure.  Many steps along the way have been longer and more difficult than we expected.

Our house sold fairly quickly.  We decided to be flexible on the price as our realtor was recommending some pretty major upgrades in order to get it to sell and we felt better about a bird in the hand than the two in the bush.  It was nice to finally stop hemorrhaging money on that end.  We made multiple offers on multiple properties here, but kept being unable to settle on a price.  We also kept finding houses that either I liked, or my husband liked but that we couldn’t agree on.  We were almost ready to commit to the extensive timeline of building our own, when a house that we had looked at before dropped in price and we decided to take a second look.  We figured out what the necessary updates would cost and made the owners an offer.  After a bit of back and forth we settled on a price.  Our closing date was about 2 1/2 weeks before the rental period on our house was up, so we decided to spend that time getting as many of the updates done as we could before we had to move and live in drywall dust.  The kids enjoyed running around the yard, climbing the trees and digging in the good-sized pasture.  The olders and I framed a wall, fished wire, installed outlets and removed a sliding door.  While we were removing the door, we discovered rotten wood underneath and around the bottom (doesn’t one always).  I scraped out everything that was soggy and removed the deck board immediately in front of the door as it was too far gone to save.  I then framed the opening to prepare it for a window.  A friend came over to help us with the installation–he held the window in place from the inside while I screwed it into the frame.  As I had not yet replaced the deck board and the top of the window was out of my reach, I had to be really careful about how I placed the feet of my stepstool in order to keep all four on a solid surface.  Apparently, I bumped it with my leg that last time.  I climbed up, lifted my drill to begin working and then fell sideways and backwards, landing on the deck steps on the right side of my tailbone.  My head also hit the deck quite hard and I quickly felt rather nauseated, but whether I was dealing with nausea as a concussion symptom or as a result of pain, I couldn’t yet tell.  But I also felt a deep sense of calm and that the Lord was aware of me–this was my first clue that this was going to be a big deal. After a couple of minutes, I felt like I could hobble into the house.  I went into the bathroom to assess my injuries.  No broken skin, really painful tailbone, really tender head and I was having a hard time not passing out.  It took me several tries to get out of the bathroom and onto my bedroom floor.  For the next couple of hours I took a lot of herbs and homeopathics to reduce bruising and to keep me conscious.  Eventually the pain and shockiness wore off enough to tell that I was really uncomfortable on the floor and I got one of the boys to set up a mattress and find me some blankets and after I checked my pupil response (fine) I fell asleep.

I’ll stop with the boring and painful details.  My tailbone was broken.  Initial hopes that I’d be up after a couple of days did not materialize.  My mom came into town shortly afterwards, but the work was just too much for her and the kids so we ended up calling in an army of women from our church to finish packing up and cleaning the rental.  It was pretty awful just having to lie there while everyone was working so hard, but that was really all I could do.  It was a bit of a relief when they finally moved me and my bed over to the other house so that at least I didn’t have to watch.  Everyone was so willing and kind and we made the deadline.

Since then it has been a process of gradually adjusting our plans to the reality of our situation.  We hired out some of the work to make the house liveable, we chucked out plans to get a big garden in and animals and the garage converted this summer.  We had boarded our goats with our neighbor goat lady back in CA in hopes of bringing them out, but with no barn or near prospects of building one, it became apparent that we would need to sell our goats.  Unfortunately, Ella and Penny are ADGA registered dairy goats and I could not find the paperwork to transfer ownership.  We finally found these last week, SO now that we have no goats, we are finally ADGA members so that I can register Margot, Flower, Blossom and Margot’s new, beautiful, pure white doeling (born on Memorial Day if I remember right) so that we can sell them all to pay the feed bills for the last several months!  It’s rather a depressing business, honestly…and wildly complex. The procedure follows:

In order to register and transfer dairy goats, one has to be a member with a membership name and have a member number.  This is $35 and good for 15 months if one purchases in September, but only good for 4 months if one purchases in August.  Go figure.  One also needs to request a tattoo to permanently mark one’s goats with a unique series of four letters and numbers to designate the herd of birth.  Think branding, except it’s in the ear with ink rather than on the rump with a hot iron.  It’s actually not even visible unless you take the goat into a fairly dark room and shine a flashlight through their ear, and this is about as much fun as it sounds like it would be.  Both of these can be applied for online.  One also needs a PIN, which is assigned at random by ADGA and a signature authorization form so that they have records of the signatures that can be accepted for goat transfers.  Both of these must be sent by snail mail, but have no fee associated.  Next, in order to give your goats registerable names, you must have a herd name.  This must be unique and costs $15 to register.  Unfortunately, they do not publish “taken” herd names online, but, I hear, some day they may send them to me in the mail for my perusal.  As this did not fit my timeline, I poked around and found an online forum where someone had the same question.  Turns out, you can’t look up registered herd names, but you can look up registered goat names, AND as the herd name is the first part of each goat’s name, you can kind of figure out what’s available.  Nothing came up when I typed in “consecration acres”, so I went ahead and applied for that.  Here’s the website if anyone should need it: http://adgagenetics.org/ .  I am just hoping I will not need it again, as I am still waiting for approval.  All right, now once I have a herd name, then I can finally fill out registration forms for our goats.  These require Sire and Dam names, Dam’s breed date, the goat’s birth date, physical description and name.  The name consists of herd name + whatever else, limited to 30 characters.  There is also a fairly nominal goat registration fee.  Once I receive their registration papers I can then pay another nominal fee to transfer ownership and then I am finally goat-less.  Sigh.  I am considering it just the next class in Goat School.  (And excuse my mid-stream switch from “one” to “I”–I am not going to go back and make it uniform.)

So that’s it for homesteading–lots of heel-cooling going on.  Elijah planted a few things and we have eaten them.  I am glad to see things growing out there, even if it’s small for now.  I read a blog recently where someone had mulched her garden with hay and nothing would grow.  Apparently, the field the hay came from had been treated with a persistent broadleaf herbicide that killed all of her garden plants off.  As our pasture/future garden and orchard had been used for horses before I wondered if we’d find any major issues, but so far so good.

That’s it for now.  Perhaps next time I’ll write about what I’ve been doing to while away the hours of broken tailbone-dom.

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Change

Some are gradual and some are sudden. Fall arrived quickly—90+ temperatures one week and our first frost the next. We tarped the peppers and eggplants and row-covered one row of tomatoes and they weathered our first frost quite well. The uncovered tomatoes suffered some frost damage, but kept on growing. We had pulled out some of the uncovered tomato plants and hung them upside down in the bonus room when we saw that frost was approaching. They have continued to ripen, but, unfortunately the grape tomatoes fall off and roll down the stairs as soon as they turn red. There have been some casualties when people go up the stairs without looking down first… This week we will see lows in the 20s and there is no significant rise in sight, so we hung a bunch more tomato plants up in the bonus room and harvested all the remaining peppers (a five-gallon bucketful!), eggplants and frost-tender herbs. It is a mess up there now, but one that makes me happy.

We also started digging up the sweet potatoes. The frosts had started to kill the vines and I read that if they were left in place then they could spread rot to the sweet potatoes, so I went and yanked them all out. When I did so, I saw a lot of evidence of voles in the bed and so I started digging. I got about 1/3 of the way through the section of the bed that we have been digging from already and I have a heaping 5–gallon bucket. I expect that I will dig up another 2-3 bucketsful before I am done.

The carrots are early harvest size (we are perhaps a little impatient) and the radishes have been fun to look at and eat. We planted a watermelon variety with a pale green outer skin and pink or purply-red inside. They are mild enough to eat plain. We are also nibbling at the lettuces. The Ben Shemen variety is my favorite so far—mild and buttery. We also have one good-sized Pak Choi that survived from the first planting surrounded by a lot of babies from the second, a bunch of spinach, chard and beets on their way, peas in need of taller supports and green shoots from the garlic and onions filling their allocated bed.

In the barnyard, we butchered our first batch of chickens and need to get to the rest ASAP. And we will be boarding Penny and Margo in a stall next to our neighbor’s buck beginning early the week after this so that they can be bred. The roof is finally on the stall. We have gotten rain since then and, oh my, how wonderful and dry it is under there!

And so things plug along here. Oddly, we will not be here to see the completion of some of these cycles as my husband has accepted a job in Utah and we will be moving early next year. I have frequent moments of panic. We have worked so hard here and have been greatly enjoying both the fruits of our labors and the unearned blessings of a generous God in this place. I will submit to His will, whatever it may be, but I so hope that we will have land and the ability to do this again. I have so loved it.

And so, expect infrequent posting for a while—until we are settled again.


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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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Treats and surprises of all shapes and sizes

Biggest news first—we have goat babies! Ella had been moaning and groaning since last Friday and so we’d kept them all in the stall and had been watching and listening to her via goat cam (otherwise known as a video baby monitor), but not much else was going on besides noisy goat-ness. This Friday I woke up after a hard night with Joseph and was told that both Daddy and Isaiah thought she was going to have her babies that day, but Isaiah was upstairs and everyone else was eating breakfast and no one was out with Ella. I couldn’t see or hear her on the monitor, so I pulled on some jeans and a sweater and slipped my bare feet into my shoes for a quick check. As I walked out the other goats were milling about and seemed agitated, but I assumed they were just tired of being in the stall. I saw Ella resting in the shelter and then, as I came closer, I saw something behind her. Then I recognized that it was a baby, completely enclosed in its amniotic sac and not moving as Ella sat there clueless. I ran in and yelled to the kids through the monitor to come quickly and to bring the birth kit. I broke open the sac and pulled out a skinny and entirely floppy black and white kid. I cleared its mouth and nose off as well as I could, held it upside down by its back legs and then started rubbing its neck and chest and talking to it “c’mon baby, you’re ok baby, breathe baby” again and again and again, praying and rubbing and talking and rubbing and talking. At some point I thought to bring it around to momma goat so she could help out, and she did, licking and licking and I rubbed and talked. I don’t have any idea how long it was, those odd adrenalin-saturated minutes, it may have been a couple of minutes, maybe more like fifteen…eternal…then, maybe a gurgle? maybe a front leg moved? More rubbing and talking, checking its mouth again for missed membrane. Ok, yes, a definite gurgle, a splutter, “good baby, good baby!” another prayer, more rubbing, now baby’s starting to move its head to the side, its eyes are open, good grief my legs are jelly! I laid the baby down and kept rubbing and talking until it was looking sufficiently resilient that I felt I could leave for a moment, then dashed back to the house to call the children (who were still not monitoring the monitor!) and to grab the birth kit. The children came out just as Ella was starting to yawn and strain to birth the next kid. A good-sized bubble appeared and I burst it with a piece of straw (an un-burst bag of waters had been my enemy just a moment before) and immediately regretted it in case the next kid needed the water to be able to reposition, but all was well and the second birth went smoothly—a quick clearing and right over to momma who now had the whole licking thing down pat. Excellent! We checked genders—the first was a girl and the second was a boy. Fantastic! And then she yawned again…Ella only had twins last year and I was looking forward to only having two this year as well. Surprise! Another girl!

With the exception of Angel, who was all white, the goats on the Acres have all been brown, so this little black and white girl was remarkable. Elijah kept trying to come up with a name that would emphasize her zebra-like coloring, but I happened to look down as he was suggesting and I saw this in her white belt instead:skunk

“or a skunk” I said. Everyone laughed. “We could call her Flower.” Everyone liked it. At some point we decided on Blossom for little sister and Elijah offered Bud for the boy. Perfect.

Flower

Flower, still getting a back rub as she was a little shaky and weak

Flower2 And for the sake of record-keeping:

Ella was due 5/23/2015, kidded 5/23/2015:

Flower, 6.5 lbs, abt 8:40

Bud, 7.5 lbs, abt 9:00

Blossom, 7 lbs, abt 9:10

Bud

Bud

Bud and Blossom

Bud and Blossom looking for milk

Spectators

Spectators and assistants in the maternity ward

Flower in her sweater

From left to right: Penny waiting to be milked, Jordan growing her new front teeth, Bethel caught mid-blink, Flower in her sweater (she finally stopped shivering) and Isaiah swatting flies double-fisted.

One more goat birth down and two more little girls…do we keep? do we sell? Time to get registered with the ADGA and learn to tattoo ears one way or the other!

Not to take too long a babymoon, my husband went out yesterday and bought about 175 lbs of cherries. We gave some away to friends and neighbors who have shared and helped us out, or who we thought might enjoy some cherries, but the kids and I processed close to 30 lbs yesterday and we must tackle the others over the next couple of days. All Saturday’s went into the freezer, but we also need to make some cherry butter/preserves and I think I’m going to try drying some as well. I don’t think that it’s physically possible for us to have so many cherries that we won’t blow through them well before next May arrives.

Other kitchen projects include a batch of Kimchi bubbling away in a very lively fashion in the cupboard and a batch of sauerkraut as well. The last batch of sauerkraut was awful…I didn’t monitor the brine well and, although the heremes jar prevented mold from forming, it didn’t prevent the cabbage from drying out and wrecking the batch. I also made rhubarb butter. Note for the future: ½ cup sugar+2 Tablespoons of SteviaPlus is too sweet for 1 ½ lbs of rhubarb and overwhelms the distinctive rhubarb tang. I cut the sweet down substantially (it called for 2 ¾ cups of sugar!) but it needs to be still less.

Also, I have declared the sourdough starter I stuck in the fridge a month ago, officially dead from neglect. My kitchen has little masking tape reminders all over the cabinets where my ferments live—currently, Kimchi, sauerkraut and sourdough. Apparently, I need to put masking tape on my fridge as well when I start another batch hibernating there. I’m teaching a sourdough class at some point in the future and so I’ve got to figure this whole hibernation thing out as, apparently, not everyone eats an entire loaf of bread every day. I know, shocking!

Things are going well in the garden. Most of the potatoes came up beautifully, the beets and peas are close to harvest and the squash are coming along. We’ve got something going on with some of the melons. I’ve finally figured out the Mittleider weekly feed, finally, so we’ll try that first. Also, The Intelligent Gardener suggests doing a foliar feed when you suspect a deficiency. In his experience, within a week the foliage will either show improvement (yes, you have a deficiency of that nutrient) or no change (no deficiency or not that nutrient). That will be step two. I also set out most of the sweet potatoes this week. They didn’t fill as much of the bed as I had expected, so we should have room for a bit of corn after all. Also, Isaiah finished the second 18” bed, so I’ve got to buy and plant a bunch more tomatoes. It will be nice to have the beds done and to be able to start our own seeds next year.

And the chicks arrive by Friday! Ack!

Lately, there are a couple of scriptures that I rehearse in my head as I go about my days. The first is not to be weary in well-doing. I think of this on bleary mornings and energy-crash evenings when I really don’t want to be reading picture books, or preparing another meal, or sorting socks for the billionth time, or re-training kids on chores again, or working through potty-training issues, or cleaning banana out of Joseph’s ears and eyebrows. This is my work and I need to do it as well and energetically as I can. Also, I think that the Savior’s direction to forgive even seventy times seven applies extremely well to parenting. It reminds me to keep from labeling a child who struggles repeatedly with certain mistakes, to be soft on these young, developing characters.


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Planting, caring for plants and learning about Motherhood

We have had our first 80 degree day now and the land shows it. The grass is growing thick and high, the blossoms are now beginning to drop and leaves are bursting out everywhere. This is really the prettiest couple of months we have here and I am trying to enjoy it. Summer appears long, hot and dry in the not-too-distant future.

The fruit trees are also leafing out. As they do so, I see my pruning errors in stark-er relief. I also realize that entirely skipping pruning the pomegranates was probably a bad idea. They looked so small, but they are up and at this whole growing thing and could use a little clarifying. I am hoping they will not be past remedy come next winter. I may need to research summer pruning of pomegranates. We fertilized all the trees, got the moldy hay spread around their bases and topped it with some bark mulch as well. I really wanted radial hardwood chips, but could only do so much. I have found permanent tree labels that should work—time to get them ordered.

We did a lot of work on the berry rows this week. The raspberries, blackberries and kiwi are all in, so we just need to plant grapes this year and put in the supports. We are using t-posts and wire as per this method. I have read that there is a type of wire called berry wire. It is supposed to be “softer”. I am not sure what soft wire might be like…  I need to research and determine whether it is worth the price. I am trying to keep my OCD side from having conniptions right now. When the boys heeled in the plants, they took the blackberries out of their containers, so now I don’t know what is what and, of course, I could not plant varieties together. Another issue, of course, is that my plant guarantees are pretty much useless since I won’t know what something is if it happens to die. Also, the rows are not straight. Aaaaaaaaaah!

Grace and Jordan helped pick rocks from the holes before we planted. Grace exclaimed “It’s a rock!” every time she found one, and Jordan expressed doubt that it really was a rock whenever she found one. Elijah and I just had a good laugh as we worked.

Bethel, Jordan and I spread compost and straw on the strawberry beds. The chickens had gotten into the beds and done a little “thinning” while looking for bugs and trying to find an adequate dust bath spot. They made kind of a mess, but I wonder if it might help a bit. The beds have been quite crowded (between not feeling well and “when to do dormant-period maintenance if one’s strawberry bed never goes dormant?” inaction) and I could see this sparser arrangement being better for them. Even if the rows are not straight.   Aaaaaaaaaaaah! There are a good number of blossoms and developing berries. I am hoping for a good harvest.

The blueberries have gotten their 1st helping of cottonseed meal and are awaiting their mulch. I am thinking about planting these potted ones out with their new compatriots. We have a spot that should get some afternoon shade and that has been acidified by a nearby pine tree. I will probably still need to figure out shade cloth for the hottest months, but I think they all have a reasonable chance of success and happiness over there. I am also planting a variety of serviceberry over there that is supposed to do well in our zone. We shall see!

In the kitchen this week—a batch of dill pickles and three more quarts of marinara sauce. The marinara has never been as good as the first time. I think it is just due to the tomatoes, but I am considering using my mom’s recipe next round. It should be about the same processing time in the canner.

And we have only one in diapers now! Woohoo!! With the other kids, potty training has ended up waiting until the child gets sick of diapers and does it themselves. When I wanted them out of diapers it was just an endless parade of tears, tantrums and accidents, but as soon as they decided, it was over and done with. But just to throw a monkey wrench into my expectations and modus operandi, Grace is an extremely patient child, including being patient with yucky pants. Attempts at encouragement and having her try to go on a schedule were completely unsuccessful and so, this week, we just took off her diaper. She was a little sad at first, but settled down to being patient again. A few issues, but she’s doing great and handled her class at Church today (1st time out of the house) like a champ. Tomorrow we’ll attempt a short road trip as we go to pick up a food order.

I received some rather bad news about a friend of mine this week. She is my age, a mom of twelve children (the youngest just turned one in January) and has just been diagnosed with a cancer that modern medicine hasn’t really been able to get a hold on. We are praying for a miracle. I met her and another mom-of-many back when I had three children and was unsure how much longer I should/could keep going with having babies. The two of them had much in common and would sometimes sit and talk about their experiences and insights while I listened and tried to pretend that I had a clue. The things I learned from them changed how I looked at motherhood.

  • I learned that they didn’t have children because it was easy for them to do so, but because they were obeying the promptings of the Spirit. Upon learning that my friend was pregnant (again?!), one rude young relative asked my friend, “Was this planned?” My friend answered, “This is part of His plan.”
  • I learned from them that each child brings both blessings and challenges essential for the growth and perfecting of the mother. My other friend said that as each child made her a bit better, she figured Heavenly Father would need to send her 100 in order for her to become perfect.
  • I learned that we don’t necessarily see what is missing before a baby is born, but their importance is plainly evident after birth. When rude people would assert that my friend had too many children, my friend would ask, “Which one should I not have? Look at my children and tell me, which one would we be better off without?”
  • And after hearing their stories of how hard it was to announce their pregnancies to family and friends, I learned that a pregnancy, no matter how inconvenient, how quick on the heels of the last, no matter which number, no matter the age or circumstances of the mother is always a reason to rejoice and congratulate. Yielding your life to God is never an easy thing, no matter how many times you have done it in the past and being given the stewardship of one of His children is no small matter.

By the end of a couple years of being friends with them I had decided that these wonderful women were not so odd, that they had clear vision and good reasons for the choices they made, and that their reasons could be mine as well. I pray that my friend will recover so that she can continue to share her love and wisdom with her family and others whose lives could be changed by her influence.

What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.


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Christmas Past and Opening Jars

So Christmas came and went. It always seems to come on in a rush and leave an abundance of mess and chaos in its wake. I would like to figure out how to make it less so, but perhaps that is just the reality of Christmas with kids. We also had an excellent reminder of why we do not usually eat sugar at our house. Jordan broke out in a horrible rash and Grace went wandering around the house murmuring “where is the candy?” for a good portion of the day we got rid of it. Bleagh. We are all ready for a diet of leafy greens.

In the midst of it all, I did spend time reflecting on the life and ministry of my Savior. I think I learned a bit about Him from reading of His temptations. He was tempted to turn stones into bread and refused to do so. For me, this would not be a temptation as I cannot turn stones into bread when I am hungry. Christ could have, but He chose not to, so that He could thoroughly and completely understand me and help me in my weak, limited, mortal life. I think that is a little bit of what it means when it says that He suffered more than mortal man could bear. He could have stopped all His suffering, struck down His enemies and saved and protected all those He loved, but He didn’t. At the point where all the rest of us would have done whatever we could, He chose not to, and chose instead to live with my pains, sorrows and limitations. What an amazing thing.

Now to shift from the sublime to the mundane…

We had our first hard freeze the week of Christmas. Insanely late, but better than last year. It has finally induced most of the fruit trees to drop their leaves and given me hope that we will be able to prune them. I say most, as there is one little apple tree out there still pretending that it is summer. I’m not sure if it’s the Fuji or the Pink Lady. Tenacious little thing.

I looked out the window on Christmas Eve morning and saw Ella waving her tail about crazily. This is called “flagging” and is a pretty good sign of a doe in heat! We rushed her over to our neighbor’s house and my husband was able to bring her home again after about ½ hour. Soooo, I need to update my calendar and put Ella down for kidding May 23-ish. And it is evident that I will need to be the one doing goat heat watch next Fall. The threat of no milk next year does not seem to be adequate incentive to be thorough and consistent for my farm boys. That’s four heat cycles missed!

My husband went and bought a trailer yesterday. Hurrah!! We can move goats about at will!

We still have ten more chickens to go, but we are going to have a warm, dry week, so this is it. And now we just need to decide whether we are going to do this again this upcoming year…

We broke into a jar of the doubly brined pickle-crisp-less dills. Yuck. They will be chicken food. Cucumbers are on sale this week for .18/lb so we will make more the right way.

We have decided, however, that the star anise cran-apple butter is really good. My husband, who is typically a pear butter devotee, has succumbed to its wiles.

The homemade marzipan was fantastic. I remember dividing up a single, pricey, imported loaf into small slices between our family members when I was a child. It was great to be able to eat as much as we wanted.

And, finally, I have begun putting together our seed order. I hope to have that in by the end of the week so we can start our eggplants, leeks and peppers by the 15th. This place just doesn’t allow for much let-up!

 


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Freezer-Clearing and Christmas Treats

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.