Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Agrarian Friends

I wanted to let you know about a new agrarian blogger...his name is Henry and his wife is Peggy and they are dear friends of mine. I met Henry and Peggy, and their beautiful boys, several years ago when I was speaking at the Southeastern Expo (a multi-state ag show). I was speaking on medicinal herbs at that Expo and Henry and Peggy were in the audience....they weren't supposed to be...they were camping and got rained out so came into town looking for something to do.

Well, God had to be behind that meeting because He just knit our hearts together in a special way! They were so hungry to learn more about using herbs for medicine that they followed us home that day! You can visit Henry's blog here. He and his boys are building a home themselves so I look forward to hearing about their progress and hope to see lots of pictures....hey Peggy!...come see me soon!

I got to spend some time this morning visiting with KS Milkmaid via the phone - our lives are so similar in so many ways that we have wondered if we are living each other's lives....just in different states....perhaps some sort of parallel universe/sister/twin thing going on....she is such an encouragement to me and I always feel cheered and energized after speaking with her! Please remember to continue to pray for her family and for her husband Brian's healing.

I had a visit from another agrarian family this afternoon. I was so happy to meet D.J. Hammond and his family and hope we will be able to visit again. They came to have a look at the Jersey cow I mentioned a few posts back and I enjoyed spending several hours chatting with them....my boys enjoyed their children as well.

I have been surprised at how easy it has been to sit and chat with my fellow agrarians who live long distances from me. I think I experienced this for the first time with Rick Saenz when he came to interview me for one of the Plain Talk recordings. It was like visiting with a close friend or family member...it astonished me (probably because I thought it would be awkward and nerve wracking and Rick made it easy!).

We have one like-minded agrarian family in our area and you can read their blog here. Julie and I have been dear friends for close to 5 or 6 years now - we met when they visited our church and she and I were in the nursery together with babies. Althought we don't get to see each other nearly enough, we chat almost every day...she is another wonderful Christian woman who has ministered to me in so many ways. (Bless you Julie!)

I wish, at times, that all of these like minded agrarians lived in my neighborhood ( or I in theirs) but console myself with the knowledge that we will have an eternity to spend together worshipping our Father...it is going to be wonderful!

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Glamour of Farm Life...or...Don't Lick Your Lips

I am here to dispell any misconceptions you may have about farm life. I was in the Farm Supply Store the other day and looked at some of those glossy magazines...wow!...how come my farm doesn't look like that? Do they have a staff of 50 whose only job is clean up? The yard, barnyard and the areas around all the outbuilidings had been mowed - all at the same time! I saw no evidence of children - except for those $1,000+ cedar swing sets....sort of made the tire swing that hangs from the Catawba tree in the front yard look a little tacky!

The picnic area was not a picnic table under the afore mentioned Catawba tree but a beautiful outdoor dining set under a gorgeous gazebo....that sat 12! (And where were all the spider webs and bird nests that would have filled all those nooks and crannies in that gazebo were it on my farm?)

All the animals looked like they had gone to make-up in the green room before the photo shoot....not a one had poop or mud on their coats...in fact I didn't see one cow pie in any of the pictures...How do they do that? Do you think they are air brushing them out? No weeds around the apple trees...and they were ALL beautifully pruned....and the gardens....just picture Martha Stewart.....she had to be involved some how.......

We have had lots of classes and workshops here on the farm, and people have always commented on how clean it looked...not the typical farm junk laying around...and we work hard to keep it that way....but....our farm and farm animals have NEVER looked like that....everything was so perfect it was almost spooky!

Lest you fall asleep with these visions in your head tonight...let me share with you what life was like on the farm this afternoon....welcome to a total REALITY CHECK!

After taking a little assessment this weekend of what had happened around the farm while I was away....I realized that a lot can "go to pot" if you are gone for 6 weeks! The greenhouse had weeds in it larger than me - thistles no less....most of the plants that were left are gone.....so we need to spend an afternoon out there cleaning out, smashing the black widows that love to live in the nooks and crannies, get the shade cloth down and plant a few boxes with lettuce and spinach for the winter....but that went on a list for another day.

We have started putting the garden to bed but right now it is a tangled mess of weeds - amazing what happens in a few short weeks - we had been doing such a good job this year at keeping up with things but 6 weeks without care - except to harvest - has left it in terrible shape...now where did I plant that lavender? Another chore for the list.

I took one look at the milking parlor and declared it a national disaster area....it needed immediate attention! Throughout the year we periodically pressure wash the milking area. We hose it down after milking each morning and evening (at least we are SUPPOSED too!) I decided that would be my main afternoon chore....it was warm today, a little over 70...so I wanted to get a thorough cleaning in before the cold weather hit - I hate to wash it in cold weather.

This is a messy job....everything seemed to be filthy....and my lovely son, who knew I was doing this today, left Nora's droppings from this morning for me (Well, I knew you were going to be pressure washing so I didn't think I needed to spend an hour hosing it down!). Our milking parlor is not a closed room - it is in the barn but is open on both ends...it has a cement floor and a raised cement platform for the cows. It also holds a wooden milking stand for our goats, a cabinet for keeping meds, towels, trimmers and such, and locking trash cans that store the grain.

I started at one end of the parlor (closest to the goats) and worked my way towards the entry door. I forgot how LOUD the pressure washer is - I made a mental note to get some ear plugs to keep in the cabinet for next time. What was that mess all over the outside of the cabinet....certainly my boys hadn't been spraying each other with milk....not my children....ahem....thankfully it came off whatever it was.

By this time the ceiling is dripping and I forgot a hat...yuck! I call Elijah (actually scream at the top of my lungs so he can hear me over this machine) and ask him to get me a hat and continue on....I get a scrub brush and douse the milking stand with Clorox clean up and tackle it - evidently it has been used by every banty in the county for some late night meetings.....the evidence was unmistakable (and deep).....serves me right for drying the does off early this year....

I let the stand sit for a moment and tackled the trash cans....now, for those of you who have never used a pressure washer...just think of a very high powered stream of water hitting something a few feet from you....as it hits your intended target it knocks the dirt off and bounces right back at you - showering you with a fine spray (or sometimes not so fine) of water...mingled with whatever was on your target....where is that hat???

Back to the goat stand - the Clorox helped and the pressure washer is removing the evidence....and I am now wearing much of that evidence.....from head to toe....and Elijah arrives with the hat!

I am almost done now - just down to Nora's area....with all the lovely remains of the morning. The pressure washer makes quick work of that and coats me with more of that bovine tainted spray....

As I get the milking parlor put back together it is time for the evening milking....I asked Jeremy to make sure Nora wiped her feet before she went in but evidently he has not taken the time to train her to do that....he actually looked at me oddly....

I haul the trash over to the trash cans noticing that the cold has not been cold enough - all of the grassy areas need to be mowed again....it doesn't look too bad but it won't make the cover of a glossy magazine....I glance down at myself and realize I won't make the cover either....I'm covered with poopy water from a variety of animals...and am longing for a hot shower....but, as I gaze across our pond field, I see that there is a cow out...again....drop everything - grab some boys and go chase the cow back into the field....fix the portable fence where it was down...head back home.

Now I can head to the shower....oh!....gotta fix some dinner for these hungry boys who worked all afternoon repairing fence in the goat field and building a much needed gate...and every bone in my body is telling me to stop moving....especially one of my heels (plantar fasciitis)....Jeremy offers to fix the boys sandwiches for dinner and I gratefully accept. I'm tired...but it is a good feeling to know that we made a dent in the list of things that needed to be done.

Isn't it like the enemy....to hold up unattainable, air brushed images of perfection so that we never feel like we can measure up - real women don't look like that....neither do real farms. We must keep our eyes on the Father, be good stewards of what He so graciously gives us, set realistic goals....and be willing to work hard each day to achieve His purposes.

So...the lesson for the day is that when you get your farm....don't expect it to look like the magazines....it won't...or if you get it that way it won't stay that way long...unless you hire that crew of 50, or perhaps Martha herself....oh....and when you are pressure washing your milking parlor....or other poopy places.....don't lick your lips!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Making Cheese....or...Oh! Pimento!

It has been so good to be back in my own kitchen! I have been playing with cheese since getting back home...not literally of course! I have had the desire to try some new recipes. I tried making a lemon cheese, it sounded SO simple when I read the recipe that I just thought I could "whip that out" in no time. Well, you know what happens when you get too big for your britches, as Grandma used to say! Apparently I have not graduated to the "whip one out" stage in my cheesemaking career. It was a miserable flop but the chickens enjoyed it....it just never set up no matter how much lemon juice I added or how long it sat. So this week I decided to try Neufachel cheese. This is a fancy word for really creamy cream cheese :) It takes a gallon of milk and you add a pint of heavy cream to this. It is an easy cheese to make. It only takes about 20 minutes in the evening and then in the morning, if all went well, you hang the cheese to drain. I wonder at times what happens in that stainless steel covered pan over night...I leave it as milk but come back to it in the morning and voilla!....cheese! I'd love to have a see through pan but then that would most likely be plastic and this farm girl does not like to use plastic if it can be avoided! Anyway, after taking the cheese down and unwrapping it I took half of it and added fresh minced garlic, fresh chopped dill and a pinch of salt. Yummy as my boys say! I topped it with a sprig of fresh dill and it was ready for delivery to a friend who is having a party this weekend. Our portion will be put into a glass pyrex container and will mysteriously disappear before the weekend is over. (Any mother with growing boys will understand this phenomenon.) Now the puzzle was what to do with the rest of the cheese. I decided to try my hand at pimento cheese. I did not come to this decision lightly...there was a method to my madness but it is a long story.... This year I planted an entire raised bed (3 feet by 33 feet) in red fresno peppers. I make a KILLER wing sauce from these peppers and wanted to make sure I had plenty to can. For those of you who haven't grown peppers....all pepper plants look about the same (exceptions for habaneros and cayennes!)....you don't really know what you have until the peppers show themselves....you must blindly trust your seed packets....HA! I want you to know that out of 110 pepper plants (yes that is not a typo...I said 110...it is a REALLY good wing sauce!) not one of those plants were a red fresno....and you thought farming was predictable! I was crushed... all spring I nurtured my fresno pepper plants, I admired them, I thanked God for them...I thought of all the fresno peppers I would never have to buy again! When all was said and done, there were perhaps a dozen unidentifiable peppers, other than tasting to see if they were sweet or hot. All of the rest of these plants were pimento peppers! And I had a bumper crop! Now I like pimentos but I would never have planted 100 of them! So...I can't waste them...what do I do? I found out through the summer that they were good in salads....I found out that they dehydrate well for winter salad use....what to do with the rest? PIMENTO CHEESE! Although we provide much of our own food, there are still things that we purchase. I try to tackle one of them at a time to see if we can add that to our "never have to buy that again" list. My youngest son and I absolutely love pimento cheese...however I rarely buy it because of the ingredients....what ARE all of those nasty sounding non-food items? So...not being able to find a recipe for pimento cheese, I bought a container from the store and tried to come up with my own recipe by reading their ingredients. First, I shredded some mild colby into the Neufachel, minced a few garlic cloves, added a pinch

of salt (real salt...not that nasty salt with the cute little girl on the front!) and then added some finely chopped pimento peppers from our garden. Somehow it just wsn't quite "pimento-ey" enough. I let it sit in the frig overnight to let the flavors mingle and by morning it was delicious! I packed a container for my friend's party and put the rest in our frig. Elijah indulged in a pimento cheese sandwhich on fresh tater sourdough bread! I love to cook for Elijah...he is not shy, either by facial expression or exceedingly dramatic noises, at declaring his appreciation for what you create. Now how to preserve those peppers for cheese throughout the year? I decided to run the rest of them through a small electric chopper, put them in ice cube trays, let them freeze and then I will turn them out into pyrex and put into the freezer. I can pull out one or two "cubes" let it thaw and then use them in cheese, soup, stews, etc.

All in all, I am thankful for all the bushels of pimentos that we harvested this year...next year I will purchase my seeds from a different vendor and try again for my 110 Red Fresno Peppers....I might also plant a couple of pimentos....maybe....

Friday, October 27, 2006

Please Pray!

Just a quick note to ask all of you to please pray for the Fuller family. They are in a mighty storm and need their brothers and sisters to uplift them before the Father. We are praying daily in our own family devotions...that God would touch and heal Brian's body, for relief from the pain, for direction and guidance, for wisdom, peace, and comfort. And for their local body to be sensitive to their needs...

We are asking for mercy and grace to be poured out on this precious family and I humbly ask my readers to do the same.

Jas 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Soapsuds and Tidbits...

First for the tidbits - it is cold here....unseasonably cold! The temperature this morning was in the 20's...normal for December but unusual for October. Fall is my favorite time of year...I usually have all the windows open and revel in fall gardening chores. But this year the windows are tightly shut and I already have our gas wall heater going. The horses and cows are already sporting their winter colors and coats. In case you don't know, God included changes of clothes for His creations...in the summer the coats are light both in texture and in color - better to reflect the hot sun and keep animals cool...but in the winter the coats get dark and heavy - better to absorb what sunshine may fall - and thick to protect against the cold, rain and snow!

We have one of our Jersey milk cows up for sale - we just don't need this many! When our cows give birth to bulls, our freezers will fill with meat. But when we get beautiful girls, we need to find them nice agrarian homes...places where fresh, wholesome, real milk will be appreciated!

We are also selling our Morgan mare. She is too big for my younger boys to ride - she also needs to be someplace where she can bring beautiful Morgan foals into the world!

It is almost time to put the buck into the does' pen - I try to hold off until Novemember...then kidding will happen in April and hopefully we are past the worst of the cold by then.

And lastly, we still have one Pyrenees puppy left to sell. Her name is Squirt Tail....odd I know. She was the runt of the litter, the last one born. She wasn't breathing when she made her appearance but with some quick suctioning, slinging and a few puffs of air (CPR style) - she began to wail! She quickly became the stinker...the one who could always get out of the whelping box. She was definitely the cutest with freckles sprinkled across her nose and she quickly caught up in size to her brohers and sisters. She is an excellent guard dog - keeps the neighbors dogs, the coyotes and other predators off the property. In truth I hate to part with her, but I have to accept the fact that we don't need 4 Pyrs to guard our farm.

It is time to finish putting the garden to bed and I just hate the thought of doing it in 30 degree weather....besides I could be inside making soap, canning spaghetti sauce etc. But we need to get busy and get it finished...March will be here before you know it and everything will be starting all over!

I feel like I am very behind after being gone so long. If I could just freeze the world for a week and let me catch up.....oh, well, God will provide the time and the strength....I just need to adjust my attitude and cooperate with Him!

Our church is getting ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary the first weekend in Nov. We are all excited about going! We will take a look at the past, review where we are now and catch a vision of where we are going with lots of food and fellowship thrown in!

I am still trying to get my Medicinal Herb class online - I am having trouble converting it to a PDF file - the pictures keep disappearing and they are important to help you identify the 10 herbs we will be studying! Have patience with me as I try to learn this....I used to be very computer savvy but they have progressed much faster than I have!

Now on to soapsuds! I have been making soap wildly since I've been back. I love the creative part of soapmaking - trying new things, working it out on paper and then seeing if it works in the mold! I have several new creations that will be going up on my website so take a peek in a week...I will try to remember to mention them here also. I would encourage you to try making soap for your family. The scariest part is the word "lye"....but it really isn't difficult to do and not all that dangerous if you are careful - I recommend keeping little ones out of the way during soapmaking just in case! You can also incorporate all those wonderful herbs you are growing (you ARE growing herbs right??) into your soaps. Today I made more of my shampoo bar since we are out. When I was grinding the rosemary leaves and the lavender buds....oohhhh the wonderful smell! Tomorrow I will cut the soap into bars and place them on my curing rack. In a few short weeks they will be ready for wrapping!

There are many good books on soap making and an unbelievable amount of information on the internet. I can't believe how many recipes are out there...it boggles the mind, and the purse strings! I have many people write to ask me to tutor them through email - I would love to do this for people if I didn't have to run a home, a farm, homeschool 3 boys, take care of animals, cook everything from scratch, churn butter, make soap, mix teas, make salves and lip balms, can and dehydrate food, care for the greenhouse....are we tired yet?! I have been thinking of writing a small, affordable, soapmaking manual to take you through the basic steps and also to provide you with some good starter recipes....I will put this up as an ebook....once I figure out the converting to PDF thingy!

And speaking of recipes....I am amazed at how many people write or call and want my recipes....for soaps, salves, teas....now honestly folks.....would you go to McDonalds and ask for the recipe for Big Mac sauce :) I am not trying to be ugly when I decline to share my recipes ...but please understand that many hours, days and weeks have gone into perfecting a recipe, studying SAP values of oils, properties of oils, what percentage of what oil to use, what herbs will enhance this soap, what essential oils....perhaps I might have tried and failed with several batches before it "took" and my family have all endured various trials as my guinea pigs for different products! The recipe becomes something of value to the family, sometimes literally in the sense that it can provide income if the recipe is a good one! But it is valuable because you created it....it becomes a part of you....sort of like an old family heirloom. So.... please...don't ask me to share my recipes. Besides, you will learn so much more and enjoy it so much more if you come up with your own! It will be unique and you will enjoy knowing it is your own creation and not a copy from someone else.

I have been trying a new mold - I have decided that I like it and will be selling one of my old molds. If you are thinking of making soap for your family and need a mold, email me for pictures and prices. It is a "box" mold, made of wood with plexi-glass liners and can hold up to 10 lbs. of soap...yikes you say! 10 lbs! In reality it makes about 30+ bars of soap at the most if you fill it to the top. Of course you don't have to fill it so full :)

I have also been working on gift baskets that will feature all of my products - they will also be appearing on my website soon. I am excited about the baskets - they are so much fun to put together and local sales have been great.

And I will be putting my lip balms up on the website...now that cold weather is here we have begun using them daily. They are all natural and very healing to lip tissue ...besides who wants to put petro-chemicals on their lips....did you know that most of those in the store are made from petro-chemicals?

Now I need to "lay me down" so that I can accomplish some of these things tomorrow before church!


Monday, October 23, 2006

ABC Television Strikes Again!

Apparently ABC TV seems to be trolling the waters "seeking whom it can devour"! I received the following letter - quite similar to the one received by KS Milkmaid. Notice how they make it seem wholesome by using the terms "family hour", "positive experience" and "teach and to learn".

My name is Meghan McGinley and I am a Casting Producer for the ABC Television show, Wife Swap. In case you are not familiar with the show, the premise of Wife Swap is simple: for two weeks, two wives from two different families exchange husbands, children and lives (but not bedrooms) to discover what it’s like to live a different woman’s life. The show airs on ABC on Monday nights at 8pm – family hour! It offers a positive experience for people not only to teach, but to learn about different family values.
I am contacting you because I am interested in casting a home schooling family on the show that feels strongly about the importance of family time. We have explored this avenue on the show in the past, and I have found that the families who home school their children tend to raise them in a very loving environment where family is a priority. I believe that those values are not as common as they should be, and that a close-knit home schooling family with strong morals and values would have a lot to teach another family if they appeared on the show.
I came across your website, and I was wondering if you might be interested in applying for the show. Your story of leaving the city to start your own farm is very unique, and admirable! I was also curious as to if you know of any other home schooling families who might be a good fit for the show. Families who participate in the show receive $20,000, and if you refer a family that appears on the show, you will receive a $1,000 finder’s fee.

Well, my immediate opinion was that anything called "wife swap" couldn't be good! I called a few friends that have television and began to ask what this was all about....I was horrified! But then again, $20,000 can be a huge temptation...what a salary!....$10,000 a week....how many famillies struggling to make ends meet would be tempted to justify their actions in accepting such an offer?

My reply is below - although I must confess that after I hit send I thought of many things I would have liked to add!

Hello Meghan,
I found your letter quite interesting. Not having watched network T.V. for close to 20 years now, I had not heard of this program. I did some asking around and learned enough from the people who had seen your show to understand that you desire to choose women whose values and lifestyles are at complete odds with each other - I guess it makes for high ratings. It is interesting to me that all of the reasons you list as to why you would be interested in casting my family are the same reasons that I would soundly say "No Thank You" no matter what ABC paid. As a mother who feels strongly about the importance of family time, I could not leave my children for 2 weeks and give up that family time. I have never been away from my children for more than 24 hours (and that only 3 times) unless it was to have another baby. Because my family is my first priority, there isn't anything that would interest me in leaving them voluntarily. Because of our "strong morals and values" how could I participate in the impropriety of living in a house for two weeks and sharing time, conversation, meals etc. with a man who was not my husband - it violates God's word and those "strong morals and values". How could I entrust my children, the most precious gifts God has given to me, to a stranger... and allow that stranger to have authority over my children, to speak into their lives and hearts for two weeks, especially since the lifestyle and values that would be foisted upon my children would most certainly not be my own. Neither am I able to refer someone else to participate in something that completely goes against God's word and my own morals and values.

So, my advice to all you homeschooling Mom's....when you see the subject line reading ABC Television Inquiry....reach for the delete button and heave a sigh of relief!

Next post....let's get back to reality and talk about herbs and soapmaking!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Home at Last!

I am finally home again! My Mom is doing great, thank you to all of you who wrote to me and prayed for me...I truly needed those prayers. It has been many years since I have been up every few hours at night for weeks on end. I will say that I handled it much better 8 years ago than these last few weeks...perhaps my age is showing!

I am so proud of my boys who handled the home front by themselves! I know you Moms (especially the mothers of boys!) are shrieking in horror at the thought of a home run solely by 3 boys for 6 weeks....are you picturing snow shovels to get a path through the home? Although there were some things left undone, for the most part the boys handled it all with flying colors. I think there are just some things (many things) that a Mama does that no one notices and therefore they don't think to do them either. But my kitchen looked great...even the refrigerator was cleaned inside...and just as good as I would have done. The laundry was kept up and rooms were fairly neat. I can't tell you how good it felt to sleep through the night for the first time in 6 weeks!

The first day home was a doozy...they were predicting our first frost. I was like a maniac in the garden trying to get all the herbs harvested. I picked oodles of parsley, oregano, dill, rosemary (there is a cow story here!), sage, calendula, comfrey, plantain, and more! My laundry room now looks like it has a garden hanging from the ceiling! But they will taste SO good this winter :) We also picked the last of the tomatoes and a bushel of peppers (pimentos, jalapenos, cayennes, habaneros, sweet Italian frying peppers and red, yellow and green bells)

About the cow story...that evening about 9 p.m., I stepped outside to see the stars...we are far enough out in the country that stargazing is a glorious past time. Just knowing that each one of those star was put in its place by God and stays
there by the word of His mouth....well it takes my breath away each time I look up. Oops, back to the cows.....I heard the sound of walking through the dried leaves on the ground. I asked one of the boys about the sound and they were sure it was one of the dogs. I got the BIG flashlight and wouldn't you know it.... ALL the cows were out (except for Nora...I LOVE Nora!) - I was looking at a group of big beautiful Jerseys...it looked like they had gathered under the apple tree to have a chat. Perhaps they were throwing me a welcome home party.

They had broken through the fence - to much repair work needed for that time of night so we had to get them into another field. My job was to man the flashlight and aim the headlights of my truck in their direction to keep an eye on them . Jeremy and Josiah went to move the horses before they escaped also. Once the horses were secure, it was time to go after the cows.

The boys started them down the hill towards the next pasture when they bolted and headed right for my truck...I waited until they were within 10 feet and then I layed on the horn. They all froze...I mean instantly! No one twitched, blinked or moved....it was like a still life picture! It was hard not to burst out laughing but I was afraid I would ruin the moment!

The boys quickly got the cows turned around, herded them down the hill, through the gate and into the next field. Whew! Safe for the evening! Then it was time to round up the boys and head for bed...the roosters get started early in the morning :)

The next morning we found that the cows had been trying to get into the garden. One of the gates had been pushed partially in and now needs repair and two of my rosemary bushes had been stepped on....some really large branches were broken and laying on the ground. I don't normally harvest that much rosemary at one time but I couldn't let it go to waste. I will use it in my Gourmet Shampoo Bar and in my most popular soap Remy's Rosemary and Mint. Guess I will be making lots of soap! I'll talk more about soapmaking in my next post...lots of exciting news!

I have missed "talking" to all of you these last few weeks......It is SO good to be home!
Related Posts with Thumbnails