Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Cold Day All Around


I don't think I'll ever really like the idea of it, but there's something about growing older that makes it seem less scary or maybe less of a foreign concept. Perhaps it's because, as we age, we have more experience with it.

Today, I feel like an expert on the subject. 

And if you're not in the mood to read about the death of a chicken, then I kindly allow you to exit out of your screen.

For anyone else who wishes to continue on, I promise to leave out uncomfortable details. If you decide you'd like to read more about the down moments of caring for animals, just click on any of the words that are red, and they'll take you a previous post on the issue.

Let me start by giving you the weather report over here on the farm. 


The temperature is zero. 
The wind is blowing at 21 mph. 
The "feels like" temperature is recorded as -22.

Farm chores are never fun on days like today, but because the animals rely on me, I walked outside into the arctic hell wearing my son's winter boots (three or four sizes too big for me), a warm stocking hat that had been knit by a local grandmother as a gift to all children at the elementary school, and my favorite chore coat. 

"Red" eating his special grain to fatten him up.
I gave the steer his grain, checked the automatic waterers for the
cows and horses, gave hay and fresh water to the senior horses in the barn, 
and headed to the chicken coop.

The coop is typically a fun little place for me to hang out. The chickens are always referred to as "the ladies", and they are talked to and taken care of in return for their constant dedication to superior egg laying. I recently gifted them a good-looking rooster for some eye candy. At first, their attention was so focused on his handsome poultry-ness, egg production slowed down. The more they all got to know him, the more gracious they were of their gift, and eggs abounded.

So back to the weather. Remember, it was COLD! The eggs I collected were from this morning and yesterday morning. Needless to say, yesterday's had frozen and split open (dog food), but I shoved today's into my coat pocket and started to leave the coop and make a second cup of coffee for myself. 

That's when I saw her.

One of the ladies, a Barred Rock to be specific, was tucked into the corner on the ground of the coop. I knew it wasn't good. Fearful that she may have a disease that would spread to the rest of the ladies, I scooped her up into my arms. She was cold and limp but breathing. I immediately ruled out CRD (Chronic Respiratory Disease) because she wasn't gasping for air, her breath didn't smell, and her nasal passages weren't goopy. The second place I looked was her back end, and it was evident that she had been egg bound.

This has happened to her before, but she eventually pushed the egg out on her own. Because of the weather this week, I've been in such a hurry to finish chores, I neglected to check on each of the fifteen ladies in the coop. Had I caught it earlier, I could've helped her release the egg. Instead, the egg ruptured inside of her and froze as it was exiting her body. She contracted an infection.

These are Barred Rock chickens. Notice the rooster trying to get cozy with the ladies.
Yes, I did try to help her. I brought her inside the house, wrapped her in a warm towel, prayed for her, and thanked her for her gift of eggs that fed the elderly couple next door, my daughter's orchestra teacher, a local restaurant, and various friends. But in the end, I knew her suffering had to stop. In the end, I knew it would have to be me who stopped it.

I am a lover, a caretaker, a protector, and a killer all at the same time. It's part of my job as a hobby farmer, I guess. Although I have grown comfortable with the concept of death, I'll never grow used to the fact that sometimes I need to take away life with my own hands on occasion. 


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Living Between the Dots

I lived my last two decades the wrong way. 

I painted my picture first and then spent twenty years making sure my life looked like the picture. Anything presenting itself to me that was not supposed to be in the picture was cast away and regarded as wrong or silly or impossible. 

If you were to ask me if I was happy, my answer would have depended on how well I thought I was living out the picture. Like some sort of sick and twisted grading scale, I would measure myself to the self I WANTED to see - the self I told myself I SHOULD be and WILL be. Never would I have thought that happiness wasn't dependent on these things. 

Now I know better. I know better than to think I have to live up to a predetermined concept of who I ought to be. After all, if I have already written my own story, what's the point of turning the pages? Right? I mean, if I have  decided on the ending, then why would I want to watch the predictable story unfold? 

Life unfolds IF a person allows. The dots that we try so hard to connect today can only be connected once we move on and look back. Besides, we don't even know where the dots are at this point. We can't possibly map this out ahead of time. The dots simply happen once we live our lives. 

And there are spaces between the dots. 

There are long pauses where we wander, guess, feel, contemplate, and listen. Those pauses are not meant to be traveled at Autobahn speeds until we reach the next dot. We don't even know where the next dot will be placed, so how can we claim to know the imaginary line or path that leads to it? 

For all the planners and control freaks out there, the spaces between the dots are frightening. Their lives are lived entirely by agenda, and the agenda is most often driven by the need for acceptance. Only, they never truly feel accepted because deep down inside they know that any acceptance they receive is based on a facade. Then they find themselves wondering if they would still be accepted once the masks are removed. "Will they really like me for me?" they'll wonder. But it's too scary to risk not being accepted, so they wear the mask and continue on with the facade. If this goes on long enough, the person who's wearing the mask forgets what is real.

No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true. 
― Nathaniel HawthorneThe Scarlet Letter

Over the past few weeks, I've been reflecting on the segment of the population who has an inability to live life for real. They look past the beauty because they are excessively task oriented. They're like horses with blinders on - just hurrying along to get to the next place as quickly as possible and as efficiently as possible. Never mind the smell of the late-summer air. Pay no attention to the sweet old woman's hand as we give her change back from her purchases. They just do the job to say they did it. They've put their time in, and that makes them "good" or "worthwhile." From one dot to the next, they charge onward with their eyes on the dot in front of them. 

  • Think of all they miss.

  • What are they running towards?

  • More importantly, what are they running from?

Just some things to think on today. Let your picture paint itself. Take a moment to linger in the space between the dots. Dare to be still and not know where the next dot will be.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Midlife Confessions Not Suitable for Young Moms

Warning: The following content is for parents of teenage+ children. Descriptions and attitudes may not be suitable for parents of younger children. Such parents who opt to continue reading should be prepared to exhibit symptoms of sadness, disbelief, and hopelessness at a time earlier than normal.

I've heard the old "Just wait until your kids get older" line. But I thought I would be different. I thought I could hold on to family meals and time together in the family room reading or talking. I honestly thought I had some keen ability to keep all five of us in the house at the same time, if not every day, at LEAST once per week.

Besides, I HAVE  FOOD. That should keep the kids around.

Sports didn't really interfere with my plans that much. It seems we always were able to spend time together before baseball, football, ice skating, dance, soccer, and basketball. I assumed that if we made it through the sports era unscathed, I could give myself a gold star for holding us all together. 


Umm…why didn't anyone tell me that once my kids were old enough to get jobs (in our house, the kids have chosen to work as soon as they turn sixteen), I would almost never ever ever ever see them again!! 

One goes to college and works as the cook at a pizza place. The other is a lifeguard at the county pool. And the last little piggy cried "wee wee wee all the way home"…. Oops. Wrong story. The last one - he actually prefers xBox over time with me.

All those years of reading picture books, snuggling at nap time, running through the sprinklers…gone…gone…gone.

And I'm still MAKING FOOD!

Like today. We were all home. Unbelievable, right? So I whip up The Pioneer Woman's awesome chuck roast recipe, pick green beans from the garden, and make the yummiest cake with buttercream frosting. This was a family meal - a cause for celebration.

You can feel it coming, can't you? That looming bolt of disappointment that is about to strike. Yep. You are correct.

While I was busying myself with grand plans in the kitchen, my oldest said he had just come back from….

I can hardly type it without feeling faint…

He had just come back from…


(Insert gasp and tears here.)

I was crushed.

Mainly because….I HAVE FOOD!

So, four out of five of us sat down to this nice meal. That's not too bad. This is good, in fact. See? I still get a gold star.  Sigh… then the daughter starts to talk about going to college far, far, far, far away from here. And although I'm proud that we've raised a go-getter, I'm sad that she will be away from me.

(reflective pause)

Maybe I'm trying too hard to hold onto the past. You know, those days when the biggest problem was how to time grocery shopping just right so the baby would be ready for a nap once you returned home. Or the big decision was how many skittles can I give my little boy and still have him hungry at dinnertime.

These days are gone. And since we're talking about "gone", my uterus is sort of gone too (physically there but out of commission)  If getting your uterus terminated doesn't scream middle age, I don't know what does. Okay, okay…the growing waistline and thinning hair scream middle age too. And the fact that I almost don't care about the growing waistline is a symptom of getting older.

It's also a symptom of the fact that I LOVE FOOD.

I'm passing my keyboard over to you now. Please tell me you understand. Share your wisdom. Tell me if this is a midlife crisis. Voice your stories and how you got past this huge void in life. Heck, even if you're still in the middle of the void, let me know so we can commiserate together (or have wine… or wine and FOOD).


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Triple-Berry Pie

We've eaten handfuls of raspberries daily for over a week. I've made plenty of freezer jam. And many friends have come out to the farm to collect some berries for themselves. 

Now it's time for pie - a family favorite.

Years ago, before we moved onto DewKist, I would buy a bag of frozen mixed berries and make this same recipe. It's so much better with fresh fruit. And knowing that two cups of our own raspberries went into this makes it even better. 

Give this one a try, and let me know what you think of it!



1 cup fresh strawberries, cut
1/2 cup sugar 
3 tablespoons cornstarch 
2 cups fresh raspberries 
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries 
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie (see below)


In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar and cornstarch. Add strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries; gently toss until berries are coated. 

Line a 9 inch pie plate with half of the pastry. Stir berry mixture, and transfer to the crust-lined pie plate.

Top with second crust; seal and crimp the edge. At the request of my youngest son, I made a lattice top.

To prevent over browning, cover the edge of the pie with foil. 

Bake at 375º for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the top is golden. Cool on a wire rack.



2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water


Whisk the flour and salt together in a medium size bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in the cold shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water over flour. Toss mixture with a fork to moisten, adding more water a few drops at a time until the dough comes together.
Gently gather dough particles together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling. (If you’re in a hurry, chilling isn’t necessary.)
Roll out dough, and put in a pie plate. Fill with desired filling and bake.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Recipe That Will Never Make it to Pinterest

Here it is - the recipe that will never make it to Pinterest.

The one that will never get shared on Facebook or passed down from generation to generation on a little hand-written index card to be stored in a cute little box.

But I'm sharing it with you regardless. The purpose? To make you feel good about yourself and your ability to cook.

So, here it goes.

(No picture included, for reasons that will become obvious shortly.) However, I have given you some choices as to what to call this recipe should you opt to try it. You choose.

"Tired Mom" Pot Roast
"I Used to Enjoy Cooking, but Now I Don't" Pot Roast
"Who Cares? It Won't Kill Us to Try It" Pot Roast
"Other Things Matter to Me More than This" Pot Roast

Day 1. Remove chuck roast from freezer and allow to thaw on the counter so it can be made tonight.

Day 2.  Decide not to make it tonight, so place the meat on a plate so you can make it tomorrow.

Day 3.  Landscape and work in the garden all day. Now you're too tired to make it. Leave the meat in the fridge for tomorrow.

Day 4.  Allow the family to convince you to order pizza. 

  • At 7pm, decide this meat must be cooked. 
  • Smell the meat to make sure it smells a little better than what you saw on the side of the gravel road the other day when it was 89º out. 
  • In a Dutch oven, brown the meat in olive oil. Oops, the oldest son used it all, so use something your hubby brought home from Spain. They're all the same, right?
  • While meat is browning, screw in the light switch cover you removed while painting the laundry room.
  • Five minutes later, walk out into a black cloud of smoke coming from the roast.
  • Open all windows
  • Explain yourself to every member of the family as to why you would smoke up the house after it had just been painted.
  • Add potatoes and carrots to the blackened roast... and beef broth. Oops. Son also used all the beef broth in the pantry, so grab some other can of soup and call it good. 
  • Place Dutch oven and its contents, covered, into a 275º oven.
  • At 9pm, decide you're too tired to wait for the meat to cook. 
  • Remove half-cooked meat and put back into fridge until cooking can be resumed tomorrow. 

Day 5.  Today's the day! The roast WILL be eaten!

  • Place Dutch oven and all its contents back into the oven. This time, set the oven to 350º because you're in a huge hurry, and you'd like to eat in an hour.
  • While it's cooking, pick up your little dog at the groomer's. 
  • Halfway to the groomer, notice that the road is closed due to flooding. Backtrack and take another route that adds 20 minutes to your long commute.
  • While driving, take notice of the winds picking up and a gigantic wall cloud heading towards you. 
  • Freak out
  • 45 minutes later, arrive at groomer's and head to her house for safety.
  • Stay there until the storm passes.
  • Stay there longer and enjoy visiting
  • Call home to have someone turn off the oven because the meat must be overcooked by now.
  • Call home again with the hopes that someone might actually pick up the phone.
  • Call again
  • Give up
  • Get home, race in the door to find the oven off. Think, "How thoughtful of the kids to sense it was overcooking." 
  • Thank the kids
  • Find out they never shut off the oven. The power went out.
  • Freak out and wonder how long the power's been out.
  • Check the meat and notice the power must have just gone out because when you lift the lid, you see a small piece of burnt something or other.
  • FINALLY: Serve. Laugh. Pour yourself a really strong drink. Enjoy.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Scarlett's Vet Check: Good News for Future Grandchildren

There's this painting I have in my head. It's of a farm scene with lots of meadows outlined with trees and a little creek, or as some would say, "crick".  But having spent the first thirteen years of my life in a suburb of Chicago, I still say a "crick" is something you get in your neck when you're over forty and you are doing something easy, such as sleeping or taking a shower or applying mascara. Anyway, there is a creek in my painting. 

There are also horses, chickens, dogs, and a mild scattering of cats. If this painting sounds familiar to you, you probably guessed that I'm describing DewKist. You're right. Most of you know that as soon as I get an idea in my head, I have to turn it into a reality.

For about a year, I saw that there should be a mini horse here on the farm. I'm proud to report that I actually took my time with this; patience is not usually my best attribute, but I was waiting for a feeling, and no other mini horses gave me the feeling I wanted.

Until little Miss Scarlett came my way.

Anyway, you all know how she was rescued by another family who nursed her back to health...then I came she's materialized from the painting in my head to a real live little horse. 

And here's the real reason for my post this morning: Scarlett had her first vet check. With my fingers crossed, I hoped that Scarlett was indeed as young as the family had estimated. The vet, who isn't a fan of mini horses due to their bad behavior, looked at little Scarlett hesitantly. 

"Be careful," I said, "you'll fall in love with her by the time you're done with her."

It didn't take long. Spring shots were given with little upset, and while the vet was holding Scarlett's tongue out of the way so her teeth could be seen, she (the vet, not Scarlett) started to talk baby talk to my little pride and joy. I knew she'd fall in love!

I waited for an age estimate, and the verdict came quickly. Scarlett still had baby teeth! She's most likely only five years old. 

How long do mini horses live, you ask? They live longer than their full-sized friends, sometimes up to  thirty-five years! This means my grandchildren can enjoy Scarlett too. You have no idea how happy it makes me to think about all the future memories to be made with her. Or maybe you do. In any case, there is no need for my own children to rush in giving me grandchildren. Scarlett will be around for a very long time.  

Hmmm....what's next in the painting? What would you like to see?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How Chicken Poop in the Winter Ruins my Day

Proof that the chickens purposely make deposits in front of the door
This crazy, nonstop, seemingly-eternal winter is beginning to get on my nerves. Every day it's either snowing or blowing, and if I'm really in for a cruddy day, both will take place at the same time.

The morning trip to the barn means bundling up in my overalls and barn coat, while adorning myself with all sorts of accessories such as mittens, heat packs, and mental preparation. 

The horses don't require much on these days, as they have a constant supply of water and hay to help them through the season. The dogs and barn cats are effortless as well. It's not too difficult to give them fresh water, a scoop of food, and a quick pat on the head.

It's the chicken chores that are becoming increasingly annoying. I now have learned that the swing gate that leads into the chicken run should've been hinged to swing out rather than in. If it were to swing out, I could simply shovel the huge snowdrift in front of it and easily open it up to do chores. Instead, in order to push the gate open, I have to somehow shovel the snow behind it. To my knowledge, there has not yet been created a shovel that I can hold while on the outside of the chicken run and have it reach over a gate so I can shovel the inside of the run.

So I've been known to use a ladder to assist in jumping inside the run so I can shovel.

But this is equally annoying, causing me to take the short cut. I push the gate open as wiiiide as I can (six inches) before I squeeeeeze through (with my winter wear on) and push the gate to it's breaking point. Now, mind you, I also have three buckets I must get over the gate as well, and since a 5-gallon bucket of water won't fit through the small gate crack, I have to heave it over the gate, usually causing me to have only four gallons of water left. By the time I've lifted over the bucket of water, the bucket of feed, and the empty basket for collecting eggs, I've already had the same workout a CrossFit participant would have completed. From this point on, one would think the worst is over. But the biggest obstacle still lies ahead - the chicken poop that sits in small clumps in front of the coop door (that opens out). And because of this freaky-cold weather, the poop is frozen. Yep. It's frozen solid, like little piles of cement barricading the coop.

If I'm lucky, I have left the small spade out on the coop porch so I can begin the poop-chipping process (say that three times fast). I chip away and chip away, all the while my hands are freezing despite the heat packs in my snowmobile mittens. I get to the point where I think the door will open, but it hits a tiny monument that is so immovable, it may require a jackhammer.

If I'm not lucky, the small spade is hanging on a nail inside the coop. This leaves me to find an alternate way to clear these frozen droppings. My boot heels are usually the tool of choice. You'd be surprised at how effective they are when powered by a steady string of inappropriate vocabulary.

At this time, I am finally inside the coop. The overly-friendly chickens get under my feet and jump over my head as I refill their water and food dispensers and collect the eggs. Sometimes, the egg basket is left in the house, leaving me to fill my coat pockets with eggs. I have only two pockets. I can have eighteen eggs. I escape quickly, close the coop door, and head back to the dreaded gate.You can guess what happens as I try to squeeze myself back out of the gate with loaded pockets.

And now I have laundry to do.

Funny how it's all worth it. It really is.