Monday, October 31, 2005

The many colors of fall are showing themselves in their splendor in our part of Texas. Now I know its nothing compared to New England since that is my true home but still we have our own little dabs of colorful paint splashed across our landscape this time of year. These pictures are from our land.
Just yesterday morning, the sunrise was a true masterpiece. Not in dramatic colors but in the way the gray clouds lay in bands looking much like a well worn washboard. This sky seemed to foretell of a change and it did. This morning in the wee hours, rain fell. The smell and sound waking me and stirring in me a desire to go out in it. Its been a long time since we have had any. Wee Mr. Fergus MacSnow (the puppy) was crying so I had a legitimate reason to go out and experience the rain. It was wonderful, but it woke me up from a sleepy mood and here I am sitting at the computer at 4:30 a.m.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A little bundle of bounce had arrived at our house. Today we picked up our new puppy. A border collie that is just 6 weeks old. We have named him Fergus MacSnow and already he is showing signs of being a hard working farm dog.
I have been impressed with how smart Fergus is. Now we just need a few ewes around for him to work.
Watch for future pictures of the wee Mr Fergus MacSnow.
One another note, if you go to this web site you can download one of my favorite songs by Mary Jane Lamond

Friday, October 28, 2005

Every once in a while you find someone who is just a natural good cook. Melissa is one of those. She makes up the best recipes and that is an incredible talent in my book. Its great to be able to follow a recipe and make delicious, beautiful food, but to be able to just make up recipes that delight the pallet is beyond me. For some time now, I have been hounding her to write a cookbook. Maybe she will listen to her momma at some point and do it ! Along with being a great cook, she also makes the food a visionary delight. I am including some of her pretty cakes, one is her own wedding cake that she decorated the night before her wedding or was it the morning of ? Melissa is a teacher and a really good one. Creative, loving and sensitive to the needs of her students. As you may have gathered, we are very proud of our children. They are people we like ! Melissa is married to a very talented guy of course. James is a Disc Jockey for an FM station in Vermont. Its nice to be able to brag about a son in law, not many can do that and be honest about it. James is great at what he does and he loves it. He is a walking encyclopedia of music and has profound ability to interview. O.K. so enough bragging on my kids. Enjoy the pictures !
Here is one of Melissa's recipes for you to try...

Cheesy Chicken Chimichangas
2 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T. sour cream
1/3 c. salsa
1 c. cheese
1 c. diced cooked chicken
1/2 c. corn
1/4 c. diced peppers
1/4 c. onion
1/4 t. cumin
1 t. garlic powder
pinch of oregano pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper 1 1/2 T cilantro
1 T lime juice
4 large tortillas oil
Sautee chicken in a little oil. Add corn, peppers and onion. Add spices and lime juice. In second bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream, salsa and cheese. Add chicken mix to cheese mixture. Warm tortillas and fill with 1/4 of the mixture in a rectangular shape down the middle of the tortilla. Roll tightly. Place seam down on a baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and brown in a pan with about 2 T hot oil until golden brown (about 30 seconds a side). Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top. (c) MME

Thursday, October 27, 2005

As much as our little homestead farm is a big part of our daily lives, there is much more that goes on.
We are a rather eclectic bunch, maybe even a tad eccentric.
Old hippies maybe. Most days you walk through the front door and you are greeted by the scent of incense burning. The Tibetan 8 auspicious symbols hang proudly on the door to my computer room. Music is always playing, but you just never know what kind of music will greet you. This morning its Dervish, Solas and Altan playing on the CD player. But other mornings it might be classical, Ravi Shankar, Red Thunder, and then it might be Cat Stevens turn at amusing me with his singing. Our meals are just about as varied. We shop Asian markets and health food stores if that gives you an idea of what you might find on your plate if you were to sup with us.
My kiddos grew up in 100% cotton clothing, Birkenstocks in baby size, Waldorf toys and formal tea parties. They ate whole wheat tortillas spread with almond butter and sprinkled with raisins and other fruits. They know their way around the kitchen and the health food store. As adults they reach for herbs for ill health before running to the Doctor. Their taste in music broad and not limited to just what's popular. (c) All the children took Irish Step dancing lessons for years and play instruments. My husband and I really like our kids. We are proud of them for being individuals and not trying to fit in all the time. They march to their own drum beat and that makes us proud. The girls are very creative. Artist in the purest form.
These pictures of ones Melanie took for an photography class. She took pictures of herself and had some fun with graphics.
I think they are amazing.

photos copyright MIL (c)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Our wood shed is clear at the far end of our property, not by design but by happenstance. We ended up with an empty barn and it turned out to be a great woodshed except for the distance from the house. The way it is, makes for some long hauls when bringing in the wood. We used a wheel barrow for years, but it would tip and sometimes the tire would be flat. So, one day my husband found a couple of broken wheel chairs in the trash. Taking parts from the two of them, made one good chair. This chair glides easily over the tiny hills and vales on our land and rolls easily with a large load of wood. So here is a picture of our Wood chair, rather than wheel chair. Smokey our cat, looks like he is thinking about how nice it would be to curl up next to the woodstove on a chilly morning !

Monday, October 24, 2005

Last night a cold north wind blew into our area. The sky went from a clear sunny blue to ribbons of gray in a matter of hours.
Giving one a sense of urgency to get the wood in and water the animals before the sky faded into the darkness of early evening. The winds were strong, about 20 mph and pushed and tugged at my skirts hem while I hurried to get the last load of wash off the clothes lines. They had been beaten soft by this wintry north wind.
The chickens and rabbits were watered and fed in record time.
My husband and I passing each other often in doing our chores for the evening. His arms loaded with wood for the stove each time he passed me. As the evening grew cold we took out the down comforter.
This morning the cold floor felt strange since summer lasted exceptionally long this year, I had almost forgotten what a cold wood floor felt like. With a little coaxing, the coals in the stove grew into a nice warm fire in no time. I put coffee in the percolator, headed out to do chores. The smell of fresh coffee greeted my nose as I came in the house. In no time at all I had sweet potato pancakes cooking on the stove too. Topped the pancake with a pat of warm butter and honest to goodness Maple syrup from Vermont, (thanks Melissa). My pot of coffee next to me, it felt just a bit like heaven.
Hard to get up from my cozy spot and get to work !

Friday, October 21, 2005

Windows open, cool breezes lifting the dining room curtains in a dance of wind and fabric. The ovens warmth a welcome addition to the cool morning.
This morning was baking day. My huge bread bowl, resting on the stove top with a giant mound of Herbal Encouragement bread dough rising.
Inside the oven a sweet potato cake is baking, while the whizzing of the beaters sets to the taste of whipping maple cream cheese frosting. Beans are soaking for soup tonight.
Here is the recipe for the
Herbal Encouragement bread, thanks to Father Dominic's PBS show and its recipes when it was still on.

Herbal Encouragement Bread
Yield: 1 loaf

1 package Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 (8oz) carton of sour cream
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 -4 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour, divided
Melted butter for brushing on loaf (optional)

Dissolve yeast in warm water in small bowl. Let stand 10 minutes or until foamy.
Heat sour cream in a saucepan or microwave oven to 110 to 120 degrees. Pour warm sour cream into a medium bowl. Add egg, oil, honey, baking soda, salt, onion and thyme; stir until thoroughly mixed. Add yeast mixture; stir to mix. Add 4 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently for 1 minute. Let dough rest 10 minutes. this resting period helps the dough to firm up. Knead 4 minutes, adding small amounts of the remaining flour as needed to keep the dough manageable. The dough will be elastic but slightly sticky. Rinse and dry bowl, then oil surface of dough and place dough in bowl. Cover with a cloth and let rise in warm, draft free place about 1 hour or until doubled.
Punch dough down, knead briefly to expel large air bubbles. Divide dough into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a 18 inch rope.
Braid the ropes to form a loaf. Tuck the ends underneath. Place loaf on lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise about 30 minutes, or until doubled.
About 15 minutes before the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaf 25-30 minutes, or until golden and bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then brush top and sides of loaf with melted butter, if desired.

My Note: I added some chopped rosemary and some basil to the loaf also. The meal was great by the way.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

All my life, yes even as a child, nature has inspired me. To me its a perfect manifestation of what God tries to teach us. Lessons all around us for the accepting.
I can on most mornings see clearly in nature some magnificent explanation of what God has been trying to show us since the beginning of time.
This morning on my little walk I saw so many small bursts of color amid a rather nondescript background. Made me think about our lives. We all live in walk in a place were we have the ability to be like these small blazes of color. I have to be honest and say that these bits of brightness gave me a good feeling. You know you say, "how pretty" or "wow, isn't that gorgeous" and it actually makes you feel good to see something extraordinary in nature. If we apply that to us, we can think about our lives reaching out and being kinder, more compassionate, a shoulder to lean on for someone else. Being that blaze of compassion in a rather apathetic world. Being kind to someone who needs that moment of acceptance. We can in very small gestures make a huge difference. But first we have to be willing to see the need. I suspect that God in His infinite mercy, see's the need for a bit of bright color in a dull surrounding, just for our pleasure.
Even if we thought of our daily walk on this earth in that way, looking for places to add a bit of a difference for someone to make that one small spot in someone's life brighter, prettier, or more peaceful, we would accomplish much.
Its a goal for me to see with open eyes and an open heart, places where I can make some difference.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Gardening for some folks is a nice hobby, but we try to make it a vital part of our little homestead. Growing what we can to put on the table. Some years we are so thankful its 2005 and not 1865. Now we have grocery stores to rely on when things go wrong.
This year we are now 10 inches behind on rainfall. The garden this summer did poorly. The little shoots coming up would burn up before they were up a day old in the hot sun.
There have been years that grasshoppers were more plentiful than blades of grass, well it seemed that way !

We contend with fire ants fighting us for territory. They hurt when they bite you believe me.
This year, the fall garden seems very promising. The plants are tall and strong. Last year we had things from the garden through the entire winter. A couple times there was snow on the big cabbage heads but they did fine. No matter how harsh the conditions, there is something almost spiritual about being up early in the morning and hoeing the rows while the birds around you sing and flutter from branch to branch. Bright bits of color darting from tree to tree. Or finding some amazing insect that has what seems like all the colors of the rainbow on its back. I love the way the slight breeze on a hot morning feels as good as any expensive gift. Or how satisfied you feel when you look over your shoulder and see a job well done on the neat rows behind you. Its even a great feeling to wipe the sweat off your brow and then go soak your head with the cool water from the garden hose and get back to work, a bit cooler but a bit soggy around the edges.

Due to the heat of the summer and the dry conditions, our grapes withered on the vine, the fruit trees had tiny fruit.
Not sure yet what kind of pecan and black walnut crops we can expect.

No matter what we harvest, it will be a blessing for us when we set it on the table. Just still very glad we didn't have to depend on our garden this year for all our food.

Monday, October 17, 2005

This morning as I was doing my morning chores, I was amazed at how many bee's and monarch butterflies were busy feeding on the sunflowers and other blooms in our yard.
It was as though they were stocking up much like we do on our homestead for the winter months.
As I was hoeing in the garden, the area around me was buzzing with bee's and the colors of the monarchs kept distracting me from my work and I found myself leaning on the hoe handle just gazing at their beauty.
As the cooler weather has begun to make its appearance here, we are starting to stock up on our staples for winter. The flour bins are filling up as are the rice, sugar, yeast, noodles, dry beans etc.

I love working outside this time of year. The coolness of the morning is so invigorating. Makes you feel good.
Working in the garden makes you feel strong, both emotionally and physically. And there is something about knowing your hard work will put food on the table for months to come. The garden is growing great so I will post some pictures later of a couple of the beds.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Pie Making Day.
Some days are just perfect for baking. This morning one of them. It was cool but not cold, a bit damp and just right for pie making. Now I did cheat a bit as I had some frozen pie crust in the freezer that I had made. I am not a big fan of making crusts so when I do make them, I make many and freeze some. One pie is my blue ribbon lemon meringe and the other is an apple crumb.
Nice way to top off our evening meal with a big glass of nice cold milk.
Nothing like good home cookin' right from scratch. No mixes used here !

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fall time can be rather dull color wise in this neck of the woods.
The leaves turning brown and not the pretty reds, oranges and yellows that you see in other areas, but we are blessed with a bit of color from flowers giving us one more time of blooming before old man winter arrives at our door.
The morning glories are pretty right now along with the Lantana attracting butterflies.

Monday, October 10, 2005

With all the things happening in the world its hard to not feel the magnitude of life's uncertainty. In the picture my son is checking out the thickness of the ice, skates in hand. He looks a bit uncertain. Maybe his face is showing what lots of people are feeling now. How he is checking the stability of the ice is not a method I would recommend but he was willing to take the risk. He is not a child so the choice was his.
Several people have come up to me in the last little while and said things like,
"when the world starts to crumble we are going to come stay with you. You folks know how to live like they did in the old days". Then they finish up by saying, " We admire how you live, but we sure couldn't do that". Couldn't do what ? Hang up clothes, cook from scratch, heat with wood, use very little electricity, grow our own food, make soap, milk goats, gather eggs, butcher when the need is there, sew, spin wool from your animals, go to sleep bone weary but content ? Simple things really. Part of daily life for most of the country less than 100 years ago. Or perhaps it is not the things we do, but the things we don't do or have. Don't have a cell phone, eat out, have a fancy house, take vacations, nice cars, new clothes, rush around going here and there, two jobs, frantic life, babysitters, debts ? Live like the majority of Americans ?
I wonder if there was something like a depression again in the US if the younger generation could cope. What if you couldn't afford a cell phone, cable TV, DSL, no credit cards, no money for the mall or that latte or walk places instead of drive, had to make your own clothes, and bake your own bread, no bread machine ?
It's a comfort to my husband and I to know our children would do just fine. They know how to work hard, work when you are not feeling good, work when you are tired and how to milk cows and goats, how to make cheese, spin wool, garden, butcher chickens, cook on a wood stove and how to walk places or how to drive a horse drawn buggy to town. Live off the land. I feel good knowing we taught them how to cope under all types of situations.
Maybe people should think about learning some skills to prepare for doing with less or managing if the way we live takes a turn backwards.
I guess when it comes down to it, I am pretty thankful we are homesteaders. If the world keeps on keeping on, we are still happy and content, if the economy falls apart, we are still able to go on just as we are.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

We are proud to announce the arrival of three French angora rabbits to our little farm. 2 bucks and 1 doe. All three are 4 months old and with wonderful hair. Soon I will be spinning their fantastic fiber into delightful scarves and such.
No names for the rabbits yet.

Friday, October 07, 2005

It seems silly to be grateful for cold feet climbing into bed but I was grateful last night for them. Its a sign that things are changing. Pulling the quilts up over me felt so cozy.
On the farm, spring and fall bring about times of preparation. In spring you prepare for new baby animals, you prepare garden beds for planting and you ready barns and mend fences. Spring cleaning includes putting away winter items.
Fall time is another time of preparation. Barns are cleaned and filled full of bedding. Hay mangers are filled to the brim daily as grazing is low. Garden beds are mulched and made ready for cold. Lawn mowers are pushed to the back of the sheds and hoses put away. Wood is cut, stacked and ready for use. Kindling cut and stored in barrels. Fed bins full and the sweet grain fills the barn with good country smells. Hay is stacked high and you always find yourself climbing up on the stack and looking around with a sense of readiness. Fall time has a good smell on the farm.

I was outside taking stock of what has been done and what is still needing to be done. The smoke from the woodstove curling up over the roof and mingling with the low rain clouds.
Acorns scattered under the oak trees, juniper berries decorating the juniper tree in wonderful gray blue. Pecans hanging stubbornly onto the tree. Soon we will be picking them and cracking nuts in the long evenings. I pulled my flannel shirt tighter around me, the damp chill sending shivers over me. I started thinking about that pot of Pumpkin Spice coffee freshly brewed waiting for me in the house. My mental list of things to be done tomorrow, firmly stuck in my head, I can go inside and sit by the fire, warm my hands with my coffee cup and then do some knitting. I feel pretty content with my life. Somedays it just feels like I have it all !

God has blessed us in so many ways.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

With chilly winds and gray fall skies, it seemed the perfect time to perk some coffee and have a slice of warm from the oven swedish cardemon bread. Just seemed so fitting for our first cool day. The oven warmed up the kitchen enough to take the chill out of the room. However all the windows in the house are open !

Here is a picture of some wool I spun this week. I have lots more to spin and when its all done I can sit back and knit some toasty warm items for the winter months. I love the natural colors of wool but there was some pumpkin color roving that just caught my eye and I had to have some.
The spinning wheel is my daughters Wee Peg. I spin on an Ashford Traveler that is far less "touchy" than the wee peg is.

The garden is in a stage of transition. There are just a few tomatoes left on the vines and just a few small eggplant hung on some rather sad looking plants. The last of the zucchini lay under some much dry and withered leaves. I am thankful all the same for what I can harvest.
New plants fill the raised beds. Food for winter months in the making. Each day I go inspect the rows and pull out any weeds trying to take root. This daily watch sure makes you appreciative of what you pull from the earth, cook and put on the table. So many times in the last decade I have thought about the homesteads of the late 1800's in this area. How we have seen years of drought, or grasshoppers or winds that destroy everything we have planted. We just go the supermarket and replace what lost, but back then you just went hungry. Money was scarce and if the crops failed, life was just plain hard.
Its 4:30 am and my day is beginning. Its too dark out to see for sure, but is smells and sounds like some rain is falling. Must have come in with the cold front. What a welcome sight rain is. Our land crunches under your feet its so dry. There are cracks in the soil. Farmers had little hay this year and my tender young plants are getting a long awaited drink from the sky. The air coming in the window is cool. A welcome change !I am debating on if I should put a sweater on. Naw, think I will just be chilly and enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Last week I blackened and cleaned our little wood stove. Since our wood is delivered and the cold weather is just around the corner, it was time to get the job done. I must admit, the job is not a bothersome job to me but a good one. Knowing that in a couple weeks our evenings will be spent sitting by the stove, watching the flames and catching a drift of that wonderful smell of wood burning when someone opens the door to come or go. Wood heat is cozy. Plain and simple. I just love the way the wood stove door sort of moans when you open it to add more wood. I love the silly unspoken challenge we have in this house as to which of us is the best fire builder.
But nothing compares to the aroma of a big cast iron kettle of stew simmering on the stove all day long. Or how on a very cold morning pancakes cooking on the griddle makes the front of your body all hot from standing by the stove and your back is still chilly. And how good it feels to lay a huge stack of steaming pancakes on the table and watch everyone go for them. Probably tomorrow night we will fire up the stove for the first time in months and I sure am looking forward to it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I am really grateful for some cooler weather so the front door can be open all the time. Just feels more welcoming to have the door open.
I remember growing up, that we all went into a tizzy if someone rang the door bell, it meant it was someone we didn't know. Most people knocked lightly and just said hi and came on in.
We had lots of people stop by our house when I was a kid and I liked that.
Our house is much the same. Of course selling eggs and milk for so many years increased the amount of traffic coming to the house but many of our customers were friends or they became friends.
There is always a tea kettle standing at the ready and cookies or a treat handy to serve friends that stop by.
My favorite poem by Edgar Guest says it all...

The Little Home
Edgar A. Guest

The little house is not too small
To shelter friends who come to call.
Though low the roof and small its space
It holds the Lord's abounding grace,
And every simple room may be
Endowed with happy memory.
The little house, severely plain,
A wealth of beauty may contain.
Within it those who dwell may find
High faith which makes for peace of mind,
And that sweet understanding which
Can make the poorest cottage rich.
The little house can hold all things
From which the soul's contentment springs.
'Tis not too small for love to grow,
For all the joys that mortals know,
For mirth and song and that delight
Which make the humblest dwelling bright.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Sometimes its kinda nice to look back through old pictures and remember things. This morning I was doing that and thinking about when the children were small and how busy our little farm was. There were always so many animals and so many chores and a feed bill that made the people food bill look minor.
There were never fights to get the children to bed, they were tired from their farm chores and from playing for hours outside. The boys build forts and ran races. The girls groomed goats, jumped the pony or chased their brothers. We never had a problem with couch potato children or children that were overweight !
There were garden chores, school work, inside chores. Working as a family we had a lot to do to keep things running.
There was wood to be brought in for heat, baking to be done, laundry to be hung. We all had our chores and we did it with a song in our hearts. That may sound a bit lame but its true.
Evenings spent with children gathered around me as I read some exciting story. Dad sitting in the chair listening and resting his tired body after a hard days work. I know it sounds like something from an old story book, but its the way we chose to live.
Now, the children are grown, the work is shared between my husband and I. Home is still home for all the children. Its a place that is warm, inviting and filled with smells of warm baked treats. Memories accompany each step the children take through the pasture and out to the garden.
Its home and always will be.

We have had a small taste of fall weather and it was delightful. However it was short lived and we are back to 90 degree days and humidity. This morning I had to work in the garden to weed the newly planted beds. We have put in collards, cabbage, red and green. Broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, and some coriander and basil. These should grow through the winter and keep us with fresh greens throughout many of the cold months. Last year we had collard greens up until we needed to plant in the spring.
The picture today was taken this morning in the same spot as the last picture on the blog when I was dreaming of snowy winter. Now the colors are fall like. The ground covered in dull brown fallen leaves. I do miss the New England fall colors that I grew up with. But now I must settle for shades of browns and some golden yellows.

Much To Catch Up....

In mid January, we saw the passing of my father and after nearly two years of caring for him, it was so hard to see him leave u...