Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Escape from the kitchen...

We always dreamed of having a cow that could really produce some milk.  All the cows we have milked previously averaged about a gallon a day (milking once a day) after the initial freshening.  We would hear of these Jerseys producing 3-5 gallons a day and wonder why our cows never reached such amounts.  Well, Fiona has become one of these mythical cows, and is giving us 2-3 gallons a day with one milking and--and--feeding her calf Lola as well.  This is wonderful for us, but without a pig to drink up the excess, I am constantly working to make use of as much of it as I can.  My sister takes a couple of gallons a week, and I clabber some for the chickens, but I'm making a gallon of yogurt a week, queso blanco twice a week, a half gallon of pudding once a week, ice cream, chocolate milk and smoothies.  I skim most of the cream from the gallons for butter and make that, too, as often as I am able.  Am ordering citric acid and mesophilic starter to start making mozzarella and hard cheeses soon.  I am the Dairy Queen...

Top photo:  the kitchen in a typical state of crazy.  The makings of Best Blueberry Birthday Pancakes for Dominic.  He turned 8 yesterday, although we are putting off the celebration proper until Saturday.  There is also the stuff for making the cheese, cream ready for churning, and the rice and lentils out to remind me to fix up a pot of my lentil and rice "beef-filler".

Second photo, at the end of 5 hours.  In the peanut butter container is 4.5 lbs. of chocolate pudding mix (I had two quarts of pudding in the fridge); there's a couple of pounds of the lentil-rice mix, which I keep in the freezer; 1.25 lbs of butter and 10 oz. of queso blanco.  There's also a bag of leftover pancakes from the bazillion that I cooked up, and 3 quarts of whey, left from the bit of cheese.  I use it for cooking with, or, more popularly, for whey lemonade.

School continues, as we school year-round and take our days off as needed.  Una and Sebastian have been taking Mondays and Fridays off from school to help paint at the new house.  Yes, we are painting, which means we only need doors, floors, trim, electrical fixtures and the whole kitchen before it is done--or at least ready to move into.  Certain things, finishing touches, will have to wait until we are already in.  Things like bookcases and crown molding.  I'm praying for money in the budget for a well, as I hate the thought of paying for city water with what we do here on laundry and showers, not to mention the animals and garden we have planned...

Well--just thought I would drop by to let everyone know that I've not completely dropped off the face of the earth.  Oh, and Annita, I know that Gemma's half-naked in the photos again.  Even with the pretty T-shirts you sent her, she still is constantly peeling them off and leaving them lying about...!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Birthday princess

Our littlest family member is five!  We celebrated her special day on Saturday with a carrot cake and presents from friends and family.  She had a wonderful day.  Gabriel commented that Gemma's birthdays are the best because of her enthusiasm.  She put on her "princess dress" and birthday crown, had her sister paint her nails with sparkly pink polish and made the most of the day.

With her being the youngest, such banner days are bittersweet, as I know that there are none to follow her.  But I cherish her special days and milestones all the more for that.

Friday, July 11, 2014

{this moment}: the new baby calf

{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Hosted by Soulemama.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Newsy bits...

I hope everyone had a brilliant Independence Day!  We had some unusually temperate weather and after getting together with my sister's family for an impromptu cookout, we went to a fireworks display in Gallatin this year.  I have seen a lot of fireworks in my life, and more elaborate displays than this one, but never from right beneath the fireworks.  It was awesome, and I was every bit as excited as my kids and my niece and nephews.

Sunday morning we awoke to a new resident here on the farm: a Jersey heifer we've named Lola.  She's the prettiest little thing, and she and Fiona, her mama, are doing well.  Fiona is sporting an enormous udder, and we are finally done with purchasing milk from a Mennonite neighbor, which ought to save us a lot of money.  Our other cow, Nuala, is also expecting, but when she's due is anyone's guess since she ran with our neighbor's herd for 3 months.  We were having difficulty getting her bred, so we weren't particular about whether the bulls were Jerseys or not, so we are rather hoping for a bull calf from her, since it'll be half Angus.  A big surprise is that our ancient (well, 8 years or so) goat, Ruthie Weedeater, seems to be bagging up!  Apparently the buck from our neighbor's escaped herd, who spent a few days in our sights, managed to make good friends with her during his visit.  I can't wait...the last baby goat we had here was Ruthie herself.

Also on Sunday, Adrian served at Mass as cross-bearer for the first time at the Chapel of Divine Mercy.  He did a great job and was very recollected during Mass.  Gabriel was up there too as an acolyte, so it was a banner day.

Drywall is up and finished, and Bret has begun priming the walls...hoping to be in there by Thanksgiving, but as I told the kids, "We'll get there when we get there."

This week we are getting ready for Gemma's birthday.  It is on Monday, but we will likely celebrate it on Saturday.  There's a slew of birthdays coming up this and next month, and really it's non-stop all the way from here until Christmas, so thinking about gifts and what we can make this year is already on the agenda.  It makes me feel a bit ill, really... holidays have become nerve wracking for me since I seem to have lost my organizational skills somewhere along the way.

Anyway, that's all the news there is to tell right now.  Hope you're having a great summer!

Friday, June 13, 2014

So busy...

 It's been over a month since last I checked in here.  There has been plenty going on, and I need to update a little.  In May we enjoyed a visit from my uncle and grandmother.  Grandma Fran is all over the kids, and Uncle Cliff is so funny, the kids enjoy their visits very much.  Cliff took us out to eat--in honor of Sebastian's birthday--to the same BBQ place we went to with them last year (incredible ribs and cole slaw!).  Grandma Fran will be 88 next month, and plans to come for an annual visit for as long as she is able to do so.

 Our hens have been laying well, but yesterday there was a sudden drop in egg-count, and so we need to go on an egg-hunt and find where the girls may be leaving them.

The kitty above is Jake.  His sister Lizzy went missing last month, and he's been a little lonely without her.  We are guessing that a car or coyotes took her.  she was around 8 years old, which isn't bad for a barn cat who hasn't set foot inside any structure other than a barn her entire life.

Fiona, our Jersey, is due to freshen any day now.  She is bagging up and moving around very slowly.  It will be nice for us to have our own milk again, although less nice for Sebastian, our primary milker who will have to go back to work, and Gabriel, who will be milker-in-training.

 We drove to Franklin, TN for what was a first concert for our kids (a drawback of rural living is that it is a bit tougher to get to cultural events).  Music City Roots, live from the Loveless Barn, is aired on radio weekly.  We drove an hour and a half to get there and ate Little Caesar's Pizza in the van to save money!) and had a wonderful time.  Our main reason for going was the indie band Scythian.  I am a huge fan of theirs, as are a couple of my kids, and it was a delight to watch them live for the first time.  We had to leave before the very end of the show, as Gemma was beginning to fade.

This past weekend we went to the Chapel of Divine Mercy for an ordination Mass.  Ordained to the priesthood was Deacon John Broussard, CPM.  The photos above are of his first blessings--to his father, to his superior, Fr. David Wilton, CPM, and to his sister, who suffers from cerebral palsy and whose sufferings she attached to her prayers for her brother's vocation.  It was a beautiful Mass.

In other news, the drywall is up in the new Patch O' Dirt farmhouse, and next week the taping and finishing of it will be started.  Bret has hired that work out, and is working a few jobs to pull in some money before he gets going on doors, floors, light fixtures and trim.  It's neat to see it with the interior walls finally up!

And it is the end of an era:  we got a mini-van.  We are getting ready to sell our 12 passenger GMC now that everyone but Gemma is out of car seats, and we purchased a Chevy Ventura.  It should cut our gasoline costs in half, which, if you live in the middle of nowhere, can be considerable.  However, if you happen to be in our region and looking for a dependable gas-hog for your burgeoning family, email me and I'll hook you up!

We are getting ready to celebrate Father's Day on Sunday with a cholesterol-laden meal of pork ribs, beans, potatoes, corn, maybe coleslaw, and a cheesecake for dessert!  Too rich for me--I'll likely stick to the sides and pass on the cheesecake...every time I eat too many different things at one setting, I end up with a stomach ache and feeling miserable.

Oh--and I'm still running 6 miles, 3 days a week.  But I decided on Monday to see what I could do, and I went 8 miles, non-stop!  I was pretty excited, having been a non-athlete all my life.

And that's all the news worth telling.  We'll see when I make it back here!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tempus fugit...

Yes; time flies...
And seasons turn, and children grow.
I can't quite pinpoint why it is I have such difficulty coming to this space to write these days.  I could chalk it up to the fact that I've been channeling my writing energy into some other area, and that would be true.  I could say that I'm not quite at ease with my new manual camera, and that it is only recently that I've ventured outdoors to take pictures (I hate indoor photos), and that would also be true.  I could say that I just have lost my enthusiasm for blogging and for blogs, and this, too, would be true.  The fact is, I just seem to find almost anything more interesting than blogging these days.

I'm here to alleviate my guilt.  I have had several friends and die-hard followers tell me that they miss the posts, and it is they who bring mere here today in order to update.  Also, if there is anything I personally miss about blogging, it is keeping a chronicle of our lives here.  I don't like missing out on birthdays and other events, and not having some record of them.

It's been a long time, so bear with me.

This Lent went by in a hurry, which seemed unusual to me, and I think it was because it was my worst ever since coming into the Church in 1996.  Not because of any terrible trials or mortifications; on the contrary, what made it a terrible Lent was the fact that I felt such spiritual ennui.  Inertia.  I could not seem to motivate myself to do much of anything for God, and the few things I did do seemed so small as to be ridiculous.  The Lord didn't even bother to step in with His own Lenten agenda for me (no illness, no trials other than the usual lack of money coming in and bills to be paid), so it was an easy Lent, and therefore not a very good one.  Lent should be--and this is my own opinion--like an upward struggle over rocks to show love and come closer to God through the subjugation of the will.  Well, I felt as if I just sent God a Hallmark card this Lent and left it at that.  The only thing that kept me from despairing over my miserable spiritual state was the fact that it really bugged me that I was in that state.

Easter was quite nice, however.  We were able to spend it with friends who have been inviting us for Easter for at least a decade.  Four adults and fourteen kids--you'd think that we'd have had no time to chat at all, but the weather was fine and the kids occupied one another, and we adults managed to have quite a lot of time to visit and chat.

Una's 15th birthday was only days after Easter.  She received everything she asked for (her desires are amazingly small and simple for a girl her age) and an unexpected camera from a dear friend.  I'd decided to give her my old Fuji when I got a new Nikon for my last birthday, but within days of getting the new camera, my old one broke.  So I was quite overjoyed when my friend sent this camera.  Una was delighted and surprised as well.  In the afternoon, we had a priest friend visit and had a delightful time of it.  He's off to Australia to preach missions form many weeks, so it was a last chance to have him over for a while.

This week is pretty busy...Bret has some work (thank you, Lord and St. Joseph) and has made some progress on the new house, so that we're about ready for the insulation and drywall.  My sister, nephews and niece will be coming over tomorrow, and I have to get house and larder ready for a visit from my grandmother and uncle at the beginning of the week.  In between, I have to figure out what to get for my mom for Mother's Day!  And Sebastian is having a big birthday--his 13th--next Thursday.

I've become unbelievably inept at planning ahead.  Unfortunately my plan of action at this point only involves me crawling into a hole with a bottle of wine and pretending that it will all take care of itself.  Which, of course, it will not.  So to heck with that plan, and I'd better come up with something a little less escapist...

In other news, everyone has been fairly well thus far this spring (Gemma had a cold, but it lasted 5 days and nobody else caught it, miracle of miracles), and I trumped my personal best and ran 7 miles without pause last Friday.  I have muscles in my calves I don't think I have ever seen before.  I'm seriously more fit than I've ever been, and it feels good not to get winded easily.

The weather's been nice, too.  The last few photos above were taken on a walk yesterday.  Bret had all the boys up at the new house, and so Una, Gemma and I went for a walk.  It was very lovely, and we were gone for 1.5 hours.  Gemma slipped crossing a little stream and fell in, but was enjoying the walk so much that she didn't want to go home, even soaked as she was.

Well--I've work to do. Besides reading with Dominic, I have to strip the beds in the boys' room.  It's getting smelly in there, and I think freshly washed bedding will improve matters.

I'm not making any promises, but I'll try to come back soon...