Saturday, October 29, 2011

It Worked!

I did it.  Chunky bean soup and beer bread from scratch.  Be kind, all of you who could do this in your sleep...  I know I hang out with folks who cook as easily as I tie my shoes, but this is a big paradigm shift for me.  Many conditions had to line up perfectly for me to arrive at a place where I was attracted to the idea of cobbling ingredients together into tasty food.  And here we are.

I'm chuffed and delighted to say that, well, it really tastes good.  I think I'll start myself a notebook of "Yummy Things I Made Successfully Without Screwing Up."  Then I'll have a collection of ideas to fall back on when the going gets rough, and my mind goes blank.

Thanks to everyone who sent me links to great resources.  I got these two recipes from Farmgirl Fare - a blogger to whom I can relate as an agrarian sister.  Here's the beer bread recipe and the soup recipe.  These met my stringent specifications:  few ingredients, non-fussy prep, and cheap.  The bread recipe had the added benefit of requiring me to buy beer.  Don't mind if I do.

The next phase of my transformation will be to start organizing some food plans so that I can have these basic, simple, affordable, real-food ingredients at the ready, and begin to get a feel for cooking intuitively.  Then I will have arrived.

Seasonal Sweet Spot

Yes, yes - I know I just got back from three weeks in Hawaii, but this.... THIS is what heaven will be like: 63 degrees, low humidity, and the sun just about to set.  My favorite kind of weather on earth.  We get a couple of moments like this, both in spring and fall, and today was one of those diamond days.

The Salvia Gregii is blooming its brains out...  Gorgeous.
I've been home three days and I'm neck deep in the final preparations before the Kid N Ewe Fiber Festival in Boerne, TX.  As the Barn Superintendent for one of the vendor buildings there, I'm moving in a blur of activity trying to nail down the last details.

But I'm also trying to maintain a little balance in life by getting more sleep, learning how to eat better, and spending some time with my precious critter friends.  Just thought you'd like to see the beasts, since I haven't had farmy photos up in some time:

While I was gone, Ted put Tella and Judah out together in the north sheep pasture - and they are doing GREAT!  You know, there was a time when I wondered if Judah would accept her, since he just growled and snapped at her through their common fence.   She did spend some time in a pen inside his territory, so when Ted put them together, he seemed pretty happy, actually, to have some canine company again.  Hallelujah, they like each other.

She literally gets him by the tail and runs him in circles.

He wrestles her to the ground sometimes, just to keep her in her place as the puppy of the pasture.

But is just as quick to do a little social grooming, with affection.  There are no food guarding issues between them, and they don't even get jealous of my attention when I'm in with the two of them.  I don't see how the arrangement could have worked out better.  I'm overjoyed.

In the next paddock over, Phoebe, Mary Elizabeth and the lambs are all doing well.  I'm hoping that all this thick fleece portends a nice cold winter - we need the parasites and flies to die, die, die.

The lambs are so big, it's hard to tell them from the mama sometimes!  And their little fleeces are coming on nicely, too.

Rachel says, "hey."  She's inherited the rust colored spots on her face and legs just like her mama, and the bare-of-wool neck that helps her survive our horrid Texas heat.

On the south side of the property, Micah shows off his thickening fiber.  Seems like the minute the heat lets up, the fiber staple length really puts on a show.  He's still growing, too.  Even though he's officially an adult, I think he's a good deal taller this fall.  What do you think?

This Jacob wool on the hoof just makes me drool.  Israel and Tommy have some of the best wool on the whole farm.  Samson is mostly around for his looks, and not for his inconvenient manly personality.

Ruth is hanging tough, though she's been favoring her "good" back leg the past couple of days.  This puts more responsibility on the "broken" leg, which, miraculously, seems stronger than ever.  I'm going to keep an eye on her and see if we need to take her in to the vet to have her other leg looked at.  She also has that wonky pelvis from her long-ago car accident that could be giving her trouble.  I sure hope the arthritis isn't setting in already.  She's become such a fantastic guard dog and livestock mommy--I surely don't want her to become disabled.

Vanni is technically still a puppy, and he plays like one.  But he is steadily getting into his job, and developing a powerful presence in the pasture.  Don't tell the coyotes that he's just a marshmallow inside.  They won't see that side of him, I'm sure.  He has the bark of a Mastiff and nearly the size.  He's huge.

So, both Livestock Guarding Dog pairs are working out beautifully.  Vanni and Ruth, and Tella and Judah have bonded like magic, and we can all sleep peacefully, knowing they are on duty all night long.  I'm totally smitten by each dog for his or her own endearing qualities - we are unbelievably blessed.

My last month was pretty tough, personally.  But as usual, I can count on the Shepherd, my family, my friends and our farm to keep me on an even keel. 

Coming Up:  Watch for announcements about 2012 Shares, and I'd love to see you down in Boerne at Kid N Ewe (November 11-13).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nine Thousand Miles

Took my last look at Diamond Head last night out of the airport window.  Seems I'm always a little weepy at this airport.  This time was no exception.

My stay provided unprecedented opportunities to visit with my family, relax, and get a long break from farm chores.  But I knew I was leaving my one-and-only child behind when I flew home, and that (as awesome as it is for her) was very, very tough.  I clocked forty-five hundred miles each way.

So I stopped at a kiosk in the airport to buy my umpteenth plumeria cutting to take home (hope springs eternal) and look what I found hanging on the rack (above).  Yes, really.  Choke, sputter, sniff...

One happy surprise - I fell in love with a local artist while I was there, and had a hard time finding any of her prints online.  But high overhead as I walked down the concourse was this huge, gorgeous tryptich of hers.  (Couldn't get it all in one shot)  The artist is Pegge Hopper.  I just love her minimalist style, and the way her Hawaiian women are always pensively looking out to sea...

One seven-hour flight later, I arrived in Dallas, and finally, at the farm.  Hard to believe how much had changed in three weeks!

Most notably is Vanni - the boy must easily top out over a hundred pounds now.  He's filled out quite a bit, and grown into his feet.  One hundred pounds of loveable goo.  He was overjoyed to see me and leaned on me for the longest time while I squeezed and petted him.  Tella has filled out, too, and is absolutely overjoyed to be running loose with Judah in the sheep paddock.  They seem to be getting along quite well now.  Whew.

Ted did a great job of keeping everyone fed and happy while I was gone, but with his long hours at work, he wasn't able to keep up with a lot of the mundane maintenance.  I had a couple of hours of work today catching up before the next batch of rain blows through tonight.  And I'm still not quite sure what day it is.

It's so good to be home.  But I have a little startle reflex when I think about how far away my baby is.  I relax again when I remember what a great kid she is, and what good hands she's in.  I'm telling you this so you can remind me every so often...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wrapping Up the Mission

Mission Accomplished.  As far as I am able to judge, I think my work here - settling in my daughter here with our extended family - is done.  My sister and her clan have opened a cozy, loving place in their hearts and home for our Emma, and I'm really very excited about the amazing future lining up for her here.  I've had a wonderful visit with everyone, done a bunch of relaxing and a few requisite tourist excursions, spent some very special time with family, and now it's time for me to head back to Texas.

Emma (front, with Blue the Sheltie) with her grandmother, aunt and uncle, and cousins galore.
This past week - the bonus week - allowed me to spend a little more time with Em.  We talked and shopped and tried to think of everything she might need in her new situation.  My sainted sister and I worked out Emma's schooling plan, and that is well under way.  She's really enjoying her Japanese class especially.

I tried to fill up on some island pleasures as well--oriental food, tropical breezes, sleeping in...  Yesterday after church, Emma showed off her growing ocean skills... she's always been quite the little fishy.  Uncle Mark, Emma, cousins Rachael and Andrew and I slipped away to the beach park for a couple of hours before heavy rains blew in.

The beach is a short walk from the main road in Kailua.
No lounging on the beach - everybody's in the water.  Except me.  Someone's got to capture the action on film.
Emma and Andrew work on their boogie board technique.
It's a small jump from mastering the boogie board to tackling the surf board.  That'll be next, no doubt.
Did I mention how much she loves the water?
She's a natural, and as my sister observed, fearless.
I had to get my toes into the Pacific one more time.   Those gentle waves and powdery sand soothe me more than an expensive spa treatment.
I'm going to miss the local fauna.  There are more lizards here than you can count.  And no snakes. 

Not all the fauna is exotic - feral chickens roam thickly all over the island.

Flocks of Common Waxbills visited the back yard, looking anything but common.  I couldn't get very close - here's a better photo.
(I'm really hoping our friend Jennifer Jurek will get some good wildlife photos when she visits here in a couple of weeks.  I didn't really have the time or attention to take advantage of all the gorgeous scenery during this trip.)

I did get a little knitting and crocheting in.  Here's the quick recap, as promised:

I finished off a cotton washcloth for my sister - and convinced her to actually use it.
Whipped up a quick striped hot pad just to wile away some time and use up some yarn.
And found a fun use for this bargain bin cotton I bought last year: a brainless shrug pattern, perfect for wear here in Hawaii.
My sister models the finished garment.  I've seen it on several family members so far.  I think it's a hit.
I don't think I've ever been away from the farm for this long, and Ted deserves a medal for all the extra work he took on, and the care he provided for the critters.  (Thanks also to Gail, who pinch-hit a couple of times.)  A little more than 24 hours left on the island.  Better go enjoy every last drop.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hard Core Hawaiian

Emma samples a classic North Shore treat.
Since my high school days, one of my favorite spots on Oahu is the little tourist/hippie town of Haleiwa.  So today, as my visit winds down, we headed along the north coast, passing local landmarks like Chinaman's Hat, the town of Laie, Waimea Bay, and the lush valley where dozens of films and TV shows were filmed.

Chinaman's Hat sits happily in the bay - I got this shot from the car window at 35 mph
As we drove across the Rainbow Bridge (that's really its name) into Haleiwa, I could almost taste the sprout-and-avocado sandwiches we used to get there, back in the 70's.

This bridge was built in 1921, and has withstood scores of dramatic weather events.

Matsumoto's General Store draws hundreds of tourists and locals alike for their signature Shave Ice (39 flavors, plus ice cream), and t-shirts and other souvenirs.  Hitting Matsumoto's is a Gotta Do when I come to Hawaii.

Expert staff members keep the long lines moving by taking orders in batches.

After loading up with some flavored frozen sugar water, the gang is ready to hit the waves.  Clockwise from 12 o'clock are Emma, Rachael, Uncle Mark, and friend Kaili.

Landlubbers Andrew, Karelin, Stephanie (and I) hold down the beach blankets and keep track of the success of our surfers.

Cousin Rachael encourages Emma in the wonderful world of surfing.

Cousin Rebecca rocks the waves - here she bails on a wave so that she doesn't have to paddle all the way back to the good swells.

Emma bides her time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to get up on her board.

And on her first time out, she makes it up to her knees.  She's on her way to considering surfing as a career.  Ok, probably not.  But her experienced cousins were very impressed with her mad water skilz...  She did confide to me later that after a couple of hours in the waves, she is concerned that her arms won't work at all tomorrow.  Paddle, paddle, paddle, and paddle some more...

Back on land, Uncle Mark starts cooking hamburgers on the hibachi.  It's so easy to bring a party to the beach!

My sister and brother in law are such an inspiration to me - they are raising four fantastic kids, and have made room for a temporary fifth - our Emma.

The end of a perfect Hawaiian day.  Fortunately, I get a few more of these before I head home.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How to Rest

This much time with so few agenda items leaves me no choice but to try my hand at resting.  It's not easy, but when I get going, this rest is a little intoxicating.

When my sister comes to the beach park to run, very early in the morning, I tag along to spend the time breathing in the breeze on the sand, and watching.  There is treasure here. base station.... sand, talc-soft on my feet... first companion...

...a reminder to just float...

...the time to paddle will come soon enough...

...more silent visitors...

...the joy of play...

...with trusted friends... exhibition of flexibility...

...encouragement to stand tall, and sometimes stand alone...
There is food for the body as well as the soul, here in this remote Land of Rest...

...exotic nourishment...

...with the spices of life...

Meanwhile, back at the house, the home schooling has commenced...

...and the folding into the family.

I've been knitting and crocheting a bit, too, with all this quiet space.  Next time I'll share my projects.

Do you need to rest?