There was a period of years when our daughter was growing up that we followed a tradition of reading aloud to one another every evening after dinner was finished.
If memory serves me correctly, I think we started doing this even before she felt comfortable taking her turn at reading. But she inherited her dad's and my love of reading and quickly entered into the rotation of reading aloud herself.
One person would do dishes, one would read at the kitchen table while the third would either just sit and listen or in my case, most likely listen while doing some handwork.
Of course, I can't begin to remember all the books we read. If it was a hefty one, it took many, many nights to get through because we probably read only 15 to 30 minutes each night.
I do remember making our way through all of the James Herriot Books.
What could have been more enjoyable than that?
My all-time favorite that we read together would have to be "The Land Remembers," by Ben Logan. We all sobbed, choked and hiccupped our way through "Where the Red Fern Grows," by Wilson Rawls.
Each holiday season, I insisted we read two of Truman Capote's books, "The Thanksgiving Visitor" and "A Christmas Memory." Admittedly, my other two family members were never quite as enthralled with these two stories as I was, but they have always struck a cord with me. The house where Capote lived as a child with his aunts and uncle was in my mind's eye my grandparents house and I could picture his characters existing there as clearly as my family did.
I miss those years. Hubby and I often talk about making the time to sit together at night while one of us reads aloud, but it never seems to happen. But we have the memories of when our daughter was growing up and the three of us did read aloud together. And that is a very good thing.
Hooray! Before lunch time today we topped off the small wood shed and declared it FULL!
We had to leave just that little space on the right in order to access the kindling area and have room to stand to split more kindling. This is definitely the earliest in the year that we've had the wood shed full.
Now to work on the bigger shed.
Oh, ya. Lots of room in which to stack wood here! The wood left over from last year takes up a little under 1/3 of the total area.
It took us about a week to fill the small shed. And it was still one half full when we started. So I'm expecting it will be about two weeks to fill this one if we stick to our daily schedule.
Good thing we've got an early start on the spring season this year.
We woke this morning to a rain/snow/sleet/hail mixture coming down outside. The temp quickly warmed a few degrees, and all moisture falling turned to rain which continued all through the day. Nothing torrential but just a fine, steady drizzle that definitely left your outerwear wet and drippy when you came in. It's true that because of our lack of snowfall this winter we can use the moisture, and the rain will help bring the frost out of the ground. So it certainly wasn't an all bad thing.
But there was no way we wanted to try wood working today. Besides the fact that we'd quickly be wet and miserable, it's not safe work because of slippery footing, equipment and the wood itself. So we decided to make today our "Sunday" --- day off/catch-up day --- and then tomorrow will be our "Saturday." (That should sufficiently throw me off for the whole coming week.)
The weather forecast (if we can believe it) says tomorrow will be partly cloudy with temperatures up into the low 40s. No precipitation called for so it looks like it will be a good wood working day, and that's what we'll plan on.
One of the things I took time to do today was to figure out just what garden seeds I need to start indoors this spring. I know I made a big proclamation that I was going to let the soil rest and not garden this year (mainly because of our desire to really push on getting the house done) but given our country's current economic woes and related uncertainties, I feel one of the most important things I can do is to insure that this fall our freezers and pantry shelves are stocked with the highest quality of organic foods possible. And those foods will come, to a large extent, from my garden.
But I am going to pare my planting down a bit from normal. I'll stick with the very basics (which will make for a plenty big enough garden anyway) and eliminate some extras that I always put in or experiment with.
I'll not start any annual flowers as I usually do. If I can't buy them from the local greenhouse (waaah!), I'll do without this year.
Okay, I've still got a couple more hours tonight to do with as I wish, so I'll sign off for now.
Hubby and I started our spring/summer/fall season "work" schedule this week. We're trying to get in six hours a day on move ahead projects Monday through Saturday each week. Sunday we give ourselves permission to collapse for one day. (I hope rigor mortis doesn't set in.) Now don't laugh and poo-poo our lofty intentions. We have a big project we desperately need to get done this summer . . . finishing the remodeling of the house. BIG project. But more about that in the future.
We're being sensible and allowing exceptions to our schedule. For instance, first day of this week, I was gone in the morning and then had previous commitments for the afternoon. Hubby also had a dentist appointment that morning but did wood work by himself in the afternoon. (Getting both wood sheds full is our first "work" priority.) And we will be sensible enough to take some time off for R & R now and then. (This will include debilitating injuries to the body, time out for attitude adjustments and visits to psychiatrist and chiropractor's offices.)
We've set the work hours each morning from ten a.m. until noon. Noon to one p.m. is lunch and whatever else each of us chooses to fit in there. Then back at it in the afternoon from one until five p.m. We know things will come up that will cause us to deviate from the schedule so we'll remain open and flexible to that.
These days, of course, also have to include time to squeeze in all the usual things that need to be done every day to keep the homestead functioning. How's it working so far? Well, I gotta admit some stuff is already falling by the wayside, but what will probably become "Catch-Up Sunday" is coming soon.
As I've said we've been working on wood this week and yesterday took it's toll on me. But what did me in wasn't the "work" per se, it was the weather. We awoke to a temperature of 9°. Much, much, much colder than we've been having for the past several weeks. Even though I could have been mistaken for the Pillsbury Dough Boy (bundled in multitudinous layers of winter garb) when I reported for duty at the wood pile, I couldn't keep my hands from being uncomfortably cold all day. Tingly cold. Numb cold. Hurty-achy cold. And I think that really zapped the energy from my whole body. Glad to say that this morning when we started work it was already 24°. (A real heat wave.)
I'm not nearly as wiped out tonight although we pushed along today and when we stopped at 5 p.m., we were only a couple of wheelbarrows of wood short of filling one whole shed. One whole shed full of wood! Whoo-hoo!
Stay tuned tomorrow for a picture of the full shed. (Can you stand the wait?) What a beautiful sight it will be!
Come, butter, come; come, butter, come. Peter stands at the gate Waiting for his buttered cake, Come, butter, come.
That's an old rhyme that you're supposed to chant over and over as you sit by the homestead hearth, butter forming to the accompaniment of the soft, rhythmic thunk-chunk of churn and dasher.
Ha! Not only do I not have a lovely, antique churn and dasher, but I don't even have a hand-cranked (or electric) butter churn!
Jordan, over at Blueberry Hills Homestead, has been experimenting making her own butter using a recently acquired hand-cranked glass and metal butter churn. Reading her recent posts brought back memories of when we had our dairy goats and I made our butter . . . using my electric blender. I dug out the recipe, took out an extra two cups of heavy cream I had in the refrig and made butter yesterday afternoon.
Thinking my method might be of some use if you're interested in trying your hand at making butter, here's how I do it.
I poured the two cups of heavy cream in my blender. My original recipe says to have the cream at 55°. I've tried making butter with the cream at that temperature and with the cream straight out of the refrigerator and can't tell any difference in the end product.
Cover the blender and start at a slower speed increasing it until the surface of the cream no longer moves. Then turn the blender off and stir the cream with a spatula. A little air bubble "burps" up from the bottom. You can tell the cream is already getting thicker. Continue blending on a higher speed until the top becomes stationary again. Another stir, another burp, and so on.
By this time I've gone way beyond whipped cream. Small curds form now, and the cream has a slick, greasy look. When I get a big clump sitting in a thin liquid, I'm done with the blending.
I drained the liquid off into this blue bowl so you could see it. It's technically whey and you can use it in cooking, or feed it to the chickens.
Now I rinsed the butter with cold water several times. I just ran cold water into the blender and carefully poured it off holding the cover slightly ajar so I could drain the water but keep the butter in the blender. Do this until the water coming out is clear.
I weighed the butter to see how much salt I should add. I had 14 ounces which is, of course, just under a pound. I put the butter into a bowl. I've read that it is best to work the butter in a wooden bowl (why, I don't know) but I don't have one right now so I used a rigid plastic bowl.
My recipe says to add one tablespoon of salt per pound of butter, but whoops, I had forgotten that was too salty for our taste. (I should have marked this on the recipe card but hadn't.) So I went ahead and added a scant tablespoon of salt before I remembered. It turned out okay since we use only sea salt, and it doesn't have as "sharp" a taste as regular table salt, BUT I would advise you to start with maybe 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and add more if it turns out you'd like more.
After sprinkling on the salt, let the mixture rest for 10 minutes. This allows the salt to draw more moisture out of the butter.
After this rest, more moisture will have run out of the butter. I drained this off.
Now comes the part I like . . . when I feel like I'm really "making" butter. You need to "work" the butter to get the last of the liquid out. (I saved all of the liquid/whey I worked out and it came to about 1/2 cup.)
Using a wooden paddle, cut the butter as you would cut shortening into flour, never rubbing or smearing. (The above picture shows two wooden paddles in comparison to a small rubber spatula. Yesterday I used the small paddle on the right, because I couldn't find my larger paddle . . . until this morning! I believe the larger one [which was the one I've always used when making butter] would have done a quicker, better job.)
Starting on the left of the mound of butter in the bowl, I cut down through the mound (from top to bottom) over and over working across to the right hand side. Then I gave the bowl a quarter turn and repeated the same process. Can you see the grid pattern made by the paddle on the bottom of the bowl? (I have the mound of butter pushed over to the side for this picture. When working it, it would be spread across the bottom of the bowl.)
I worked the butter (draining off the liquid as it formed in the bottom of the bowl) until the soft, slippery lump became a smooth, compact, bright, waxy ball of the high priced spread. Yesterday this step took twenty minutes, but I know I've done it in about ten minutes before. (Maybe I'm out of practice?)
Here's my finished product in a glass dish. The very white color has me stumped. Usually, even in winter time when the cows have only dried hay to eat, the butter will have a light yellow tint to it. This I made yesterday looks extremely white. When I made butter with our goats' cream, it was always white because goat cream is never yellow. I used to add a couple of drops of vegetable dandelion butter color so it didn't look so much like lard!
This morning we taste tested the butter on our toast and we both thought it was delicious, even though a smidge bit salty.
I had forgotten what a sense of accomplishment making butter gives. And like so many other foods that are homemade, fresh butter just tastes better!
One afternoon recently hubby and I sat down and made a list of projects we want to get done this spring/summer/fall season. Up here in the frozen tundra we have to take advantage of a limited part of the year when we can comfortably work outside on certain projects. Stretching the limits about as far as we dare, we decided we have from the last of March (this year anyway because of lack of snow) to the first part of November. And, yes, that is stretching it a bit, but we've gotta remain optimistic.
Our list is huge. H.U.G.E. There is no way two people could possibly accomplish everything on the list in the time frame allotted. So we prioritized. Well, sort of. We marked what absolutely has to be done first, and when that's done, we'll decide what comes next.
So what are we staring on? Getting both wood sheds topped off with cut and split wood so that the wood has a full summer's season to dry and thereby provide us with the most possible BTUs for our time and money spent.
Yesterday hubby started on the wood while I was involved otherwise. (Resting on the couch in preparation for all the physical labor to come) Today we both got in several hours of wood working. (I am sore. I am achy. I am tired. I am thinking of running away from home.)
Last fall we chose to take down some poplar trees after our second big windstorm that wreaked all kinds of havoc. These trees were too close to the house and/or garage so they had to go.
Here hubby is cutting up some branches from these trees stacked in the wood cutting cradle. Brown tarp is spread on the ground for easy retrieval of sawdust to use in the chicken house or garden.
The first three wheelbarrows of wood ready to be stacked in the smaller of our two wood sheds. Poplar is technically a soft wood and doesn't give off as much heat as hard woods so we'll fill the front of this shed with this wood and use it in the moderate fall months before burning the maple which will be behind it.
We went into last winter with this kindling area chock full right up to the tippy-top. You can see we still have a good supply left. I'll have to get it topped off again before fall.
Matter of fact, here I am splitting some kindling while hubby was putting equipment and the wood splitter away. (And snapping a picture or two.) Notice my cool head gear? It's kinda hard to see in the picture, but I had spotted dear husband's dark blue baseball cap that he had earlier taken off and dropped in a spot where I knew he'd forget it. I picked it up to take inside but then plopped it on my head (over my own sexy [not] work bandana) when I needed my hands free for the kindling.
More wood working fun on the schedule for tomorrow. Hope my back has unkinked by then. And my knees feel better. And my shoulders aren't so stiff. And . . .
We had a really productive day today, got a gazillion small jobs done, and to top it off, had a whole day of bright sunshine.
The highest temp I saw on our thermometer on the north side of the house in the shade was 41° but I know it must have been well into the 50s (maybe 60?) in the sun.
Hubby climbed up on the roof and cleaned the two wood stove chimneys, and did a big bunch of sorting and cleaning in the garage.
Together we attacked the bottom of a big closet where we had stashed boxes of miscellaneous stuff (it hadn't been cleaned out in over five years . . . oh, for shame!) which we went through, jettisoned some things, put other things in storage elsewhere and, guess what? Ended up with lots of prime storage room for more appropriate items.
I defrosted and rearranged two freezers, cleaned and sorted my little pantry area, and went up to the farm to get a fresh supply of milk products.
On the way to the farm I cross a bridge going over this little stream which is plum full with all of the spring run-off.
This shot was taken from the other side of the bridge. Now that's what you call a babbling brook!
I just love this big, old windmill on the dairy farm. I'm not sure if it's actually hooked up to pump water anymore or not but the wind was blowing, and it was spinning merrily away. I could have stood there and watched it for a lot longer than I did.
I drove the slightly longer way home because I wanted to go through a heavily wooded area to see if all the snow was gone. It was. I stopped by this little stream which isn't nearly as big as the one on the first half of my journey, but pretty none the less.
It feels good to have accomplished all the little tasks we did today. My muscles are also feeling a little stressed and strained from moving what must have been a couple hundred pounds of frozen food out and in of the two freezers. But it's definitely a feel good tired. It was a good day.
After a perfectly gorgeous day yesterday working outside in shirt sleeves, the temperature dropped last night and winter came back. We even had snowflakes for a couple of hours early this morning.
Our pond which has been open water this past week reverted back to sporting heavy chunks of ice.
Some of the slabs/chunks are several inches thick. But with the afternoon sun shining on them, they became forms of beauty worthy of images to share.
And it is still only a smidge past mid-March after all. Most years we'd still be thigh-deep in snow up here at this time of year. So we'll relish any "pretend" spring days we get and appreciate the beauty Mother Nature gives while reminding us that we can still have some mighty cold weather to get through before spring comes to stay.
Here's a snippet of our day out at Swamp River Ridge giving Chicken Mama a helping hand on a chore or two that needed a helping hand. I didn't get to chronicle all the day's activities because I kept finding myself in one spot with my camera in another.
Chicken Mama wanted to store some things in the little hidey-hole up above the walk-in closet in her bedroom which is accessible only by ladder. Seems the last time she crawled up there to put some things away, the ladder fell down so she thought this would be a good thing to do when someone was there to help.
Her dear ol' dad was on the floor handing boxes to me halfway up the ladder and then I could hand them to her up in the storage area. Worked pretty slick that way and we had the boxes she wanted up and those she wanted down switched in no time flat.
Then we were off to a different storage area over the garage where she wanted to do some sorting. She found the box of Halloween costumes and couldn't resist becoming a sultry redhead for a few minutes complete with black feather boa.
We also carried boxes and boxes and boxes (well, it felt that way) of books down to ground level where Dad got the job of transporting them via wheelbarrow up to the house.
Next was the light over the side door that heavy snow sliding off the roof had damaged.
Tucker was very concerned so found one of the few remaining snow banks to sprawl on from which to watch.
And we all know how this goes . . . one person is needed to hold the fixture while the other connects the wires.
Along about 4:30 I volunteered (puleeze let me rest!) to go in and start putting a pizza together for dinner. Chicken Mama had already done the hard part: making the crust.
While I was doing this, father and daughter crawled under the back-up snow plow truck to see if they could determine what was wrong with the transmission. I was just about to grab my camera and run out to get a picture of the four legs sticking out from under the truck when I knocked a really nice, close-to-antique glass off the counter which shattered into a million pieces. (I had had two alcoholic drinks by that time but that had absolutely nothing to do with my coordination. Or lack thereof.)
I cannot tell you how good this pizza tasted. It was cut into eight pieces. Two people ate two pieces each and one person ate three and a half pieces. (Burp. 'Scuse me.)
The above picture shows that I believe in spreading my wheat seed contaminated soil around the county. This is the hyacinth I bought for Chicken Mama at the same time I bought my oxalis plant and which I repotted before giving to her using the same potting soil. At least the stand of her wheat didn't completely crowd out her plant.
All in all, a fun day, a good day, and I'm going to take a hot shower and go to bed. Night-night.
I was in the midst of typing up a new blog entry (where have I been the last few days?) but got a phone call from Chicken Mama letting us know she's up, functioning and not feeling too bad. She's had a nasty cold attacking her well-being all week and although we've had the day scheduled to take a trip out to her homestead for a work/play day, I didn't actually expect to hear that she was rarin' to go so early this morning.
So, to stop my rambling and get on with it, I need to finish pulling things together here so we can get in our truck and mosey on out to Swamp River Ridge for the day. Looks like it's going to be beautiful weather which will help any and all projects that are on the agenda.
I'll try to blog again tonight. Hope you all have a great day!
I went to bed early last night, my hubby did not. At 4:30 this morning, I was wide awake. As I was trying to quietly gather my reading book and some other materials off my desk, I heard a muffled voice, "Are you getting up?"
"Yup," I whispered. "I can't sleep."
"Neither can I. I'll get up, too."
So our day began a little earlier than usual today. By regular breakfast time, we were both hungry enough to eat the proverbial horse, but opted instead for an old favorite, Oatmeal Pancakes.
For some reason, these don't hit my tummy as heavily as all-flour pancakes do. They are slightly chewy, in a good way, and have a nice subtle "nutty" flavor. At any rate, I've always convinced myself they are healthier than regular pancakes, or "saddle pads" as my dad used to call them.
1-1/8 cups milk 1 cup rolled oats 2 tablespoon butter, melted 2 eggs 3/4 cups flour* 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt
In a medium mixing bowl, combine milk and oats and let stand for at least 5 minutes.
Then add melted butter and eggs, mixing well. Stir in the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Cook on a hot, lightly oiled griddle using 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Turn when tops are bubbly and edges are slightly dry.
Makes 10-12 four-inch pancakes.
*You can use nearly any kind of flour for these pancakes. White, whole wheat, some rye, etc. This morning I used half white and half spelt.
Serve them with butter and maple syrup . . . mmmm, good.
Remember the post I made last Saturday with the picture of the shamrock plant I had recently brought home from a shopping trip to the big city?
Here's the picture I posted right after I had repotted it when I got home.
I used some potting soil I had stored in an outbuilding over winter.
Oh, balderdash! This is what the same plant, in the same pot, looks like today.
The potting soil I used was stored in a 5-gallon pickle bucket with a lid which has never fit properly. I remember once during the winter I saw the bucket and noticed the lid had been knocked to the floor. I picked the lid up and put it back on the bucket, ill-fitting though it has always been.
Well, apparently while said wonky lid was off the bucket, some little creature used the potting soil in the bucket as a cache for some wheat he was very industriously gathering and stowing away for a rainy day. Then when I brought the soil in, warmed it up, used it for repotting my new plant, and watered it, great things happened to the seed. But not so great for my shamrock plant.
Now I guess I'll have to take the plant out of the pot, try to remove as much of the sprouted wheat as I can without harming the plant, and repot it in soil from a new (unopened) bag of potting soil. And then find a new bucket with a tight fitting lid in which to keep my potting soil. (Nice, healthy stand of wheat though, wouldn't you say?)
Because I know none of you have anything more important to worry about than my cracked tooth story . . . I want to report that I'm back from the dentist and I am smiling!
I went in for my appointment and the dentist asked me to tell her what was going on so I related my sad popcorn/cracked tooth tale. She said, "Okay, let's take a look."
The next thing she said was, "Oh gosh, ow, oh dear . . . "
Picture me in my prone position visibly sinking even farther into the dental chair.
But then she said, "Oh no, wait! That's not your tooth! It's a crown."
My crown had broken completely in half (I had no idea they could do that) and the one half was still securely fastened and the other half was the floppy, dangling part.
Then she asked her assistant for the "padded pliers", and pulled the broken part off/out. As much as I didn't like the sound of that, it didn't hurt.
That's why I didn't have any pain; my tooth hadn't broken but the crown had. (I am SO grateful for small blessings!)
She cleaned everything up and put on a temporary plastic half crown (at NO CHARGE, can you beat that?) and we made an appointment to get work started on a new crown in a couple of weeks.
So other than having to break into a couple of our piggy banks to come up with the $$$ to pay for the new crown, I'm feeling pretty good right now. I really truly had visions of having to have the tooth pulled, etc., etc. I feel everything turned out really well. (But I still don't have a taste for popcorn right now, thank you very much.)
Several years ago, I pulled the crown off of one of my teeth when eating a wonderfully, ooey-gooey, sinfully scrumptious, super-sticky caramel roll. It was such a sickening (not to mention costly) feeling that I have not been able to eat a caramel roll since then. (Just think of all the calories I've avoided over the years!)
Last night while munching a bowl of popcorn, my back molar on the bottom left side cracked from stem to stern, back to front. Once I managed to masticate and swallow the mouthful of popcorn (and hope I wasn't swallowing part of a tooth also), I discovered that although the tooth is definitely now divided into two pieces, one half seems very secure but the other is quite loose and wobbly.
I called our local dentist first thing this morning. Both hubby and I used to go there but when we decided to have all of the mercury amalgams removed from our mouths, we started going to a dentist a five-plus hour's drive from here.
Funny thing is that we've as recently as yesterday morning (!) been talking about getting re-established with someone closer to home. Looks as if this will be happening soon. Like this afternoon.
I was very grateful that even though the telephone receptionist in the dentist's office said they were already double-booked because of "other emergencies" today, they would squeeze me in at 3:10 this afternoon to at least check out my situation.
Now if I can just keep from swallowing the loose part of the tooth until this afternoon, I'll consider myself lucky. And as of this moment, I have no desire whatsoever to ever, ever, EVER eat popcorn again.
We've all heard of 'snowbirds' . . . those people who live in northern climates and go south in the winter to avoid the snow. That doesn't appeal to me in the least, because I love snow and the winter time. But, if I could, I'd readily become a 'mudbird' and go to an area of the country that was dry and free of mud in the spring time.
I don't like mud. I don't like the drab coloration of our scenery in the spring. (If the truth were to be told, we don't actually have much of a spring season up here in northeastern Minnesota. We tend to go from late winter into summer. Even our 'spring' flowers don't bloom until June.)
Chives are always the first outdoor plant to show any signs of greening up. I couldn't help myself today. I went out and raked the dead foliage away from my chive plants and look what I found. New growth!
This is my pumpkin patch. It is super-saturated with water. Why wouldn't it be? The snow just melted off of it yesterday.
Here are our eight rows of strawberry plants. Still covered with the winter mulch blanket but nearly free of snow now.
Most of the raised garden beds have recently been exposed to the sunlight. They will dry out very quickly and if I can keep them sufficiently warmed with cold frames on top, I can plant some early seeds that don't mind cool weather. Like salad greens (oh, that sounds so good!), spinach, chard, radishes, etc. Not that I mean I can do that right away. I'll have to restrain myself for a least another month.
Enough of the pond ice has melted that this pair of Shetland geese has been taking a bath every day now. It must feel wonderful after a bath-less winter. You can see the two wild Mallard ducks in the background. They are a pair that are the very first to arrive each year.
Doesn't Mrs. Shetland look like she's enjoying her spa treatment to the utmost?
Our weather forecast is for 'icy rain' tonight and tomorrow morning but this afternoon we'll enjoy as much warm weather as we can get. Maybe some of the dreaded mud will even dry up.
I live with my husband on a small homestead in Northeastern Minnesota. Our daughter (Beyond the Fork in the Road) currently lives in a small cabin in the woods not too far from us.
Our place is located outside a small tourist town and a two and a half hour's drive from the nearest big city. Trips to the city are infrequent, well-planned, and exhausting!
We currently raise chickens and have hives of honey bees. Raising some of our meat and most of our fruits and vegetables is a priority for us; so, along with our birds for meat and eggs, we have fruit trees, berry patches and a huge vegetable garden.
Quilting is my passion, and I could happily spend each day in my quilt studio if I weren't happily spending each day out in the garden. Good thing we have winters up here; Mother Nature helps keep my life balanced.
Home and Household Manager (Highly-Skilled Domestic Engineer)
Wife of Retired School Teacher (I Really Enjoy Having Him Home)
Mother of Grown Child (I Am So Proud of Her)
Fanatic Gardener (So Many Seeds, So Little Summer)