Sunday, October 13, 2019

A wedding, fall harvests/planting, AND a birthday!

The sun is shining in the front windows, Terah and Alida are playing happily in the living room together, Kali is out taking care of her ducks and Jason is working on cover crops. I've got plenty of pictures downloaded and ready to share. I will mostly let the pictures speak for the events of recent days. Beautiful times with beautiful people in the beautiful world outside. And while I've been able to be present to some of it, due to stress of an unprecedented nature at my work, the last 10 days have been pretty painful. For that reason, my mind and heart has often not been where my body is. So I'm most definitely putting on the "family scrapbooker" hat right now and will do my best to share here for the record a glimpse of the wonderful highlights of recent days!

Last weekend we got new neighbors! We are so happy to welcome Jonathan and Christen to Happy Valley Road. They not only moved in, but also hosted their wedding and party at their new home all in one weekend! It was fun to be able to host a meal for some of their family and friends Friday evening and then Saturday was a full day of ritual and celebration as they committed themselves to each other and the land and we to our relationships with them. A beautiful and emotional day. We look forward to sharing life together in this place and hopefully growing old together!
I provided farmer's and cheddar cheese for the wedding party. I decided to cut the rind off my cheddar rounds for the occasion as some seem to really like the cheddar rind and some think the rind is not edible and leave it on their plates. I didn't want lots of rinds going to waste so I cut them off ahead of them. Then I had LOTS of cheddar rind so it seemed the time for an experiment: what would happen if I dried all the rind down and then pulverized it? What I hoped was that I would get a very flavorful parmesan-like cheese. I did. Yippee!
So one weekend a wedding and the next weekend a birthday. And our littlest was sure eager to be 4. The numbers lover in me was also eagerly anticipating that we would then have 4, 8 and 16 year old girls. I think it is pretty cute that 4+4 =8 and 8+8=16. Our last fun combination was when Terah was 2, Alida 7 and Kali 14 (2x7=14). I haven't figured out if there are any fun ones coming down the line. More than the numbers, I'm enjoying each of our girls at the unique ages and stages they are at.

We gave Terah one of her presents (her very own pruners and flower trimmers) the day before her birthday as we were pretty sure she'd like to try them out for the final corn and squash harvests of the year. She did! Jason and I marveled at the large winter squashes we pulled out of the patch. After the horrendous start to the season, we were bracing ourselves for very little winter squash. I am once again nothing short of amazed at plants!
On the eve of Terah's birth we had fun all laying in bed together and looking at pictures and videos of Terah as a baby and then we cracked open the folder of photos of her actual birth. Due to the fact that I lose all sense of modesty when laboring, those pictures are only for family viewing but Terah got to see herself being born and we talked through the labor. At one point I said something like "I was working pretty hard at that point." As we flipped through the pictures, Terah piped up, "But it was worth it." Oh, it was so worth it!

As we flipped through pictures, we had this very fun realization: On the eve of Terah's birth, Alida was wearing the exact same footie pajamas that Terah had on at that moment (the eve of her fourth birthday).
There was no sleeping in for Terah on her birthday. I was still trying to wrap up a few work things and so she got busy splitting apart garlic cloves for planting later that day. It took considerable effort to keep her occupied with other things until Jason was done chores and Kali was up. She was eager to open some presents!
So the day was a mix of specific birthday fun and family gardening (which was also fun!). We got our hard and soft neck garlic planted, harvested the ginger and brought in the pineapple and amaryllis. Terah enjoyed her new sewing cards and paints, helped me make the cupcakes for her birthday, savored the extra attentiveness of her big sisters to her every whim and then we welcomed Aunt Christie who joined in time for her birthday dinner and was staying with us for the weekend. It was a good day and her party was not even until the next day! At breakfast we had started eating before she reminded us, "You didn't sing Happy Birthday to me." We fixed that immediately! And lest one questions the picture of her vacuuming below, this gal is EAGER to be grown up and do things she could not do previously so operating the vacuum solo is a sign of her grown-up-ness, as is using sharp knives in the kitchen!
Yesterday was her second day of minikickers and I was able to be with her for this one. She was mostly attached to me for the hour and still would not play freeze tag. On a few of the activities, she got comfortable enough to let go of my hand for a few minutes. I've noticed that she almost always sticks her tongue out when kicking the ball! She seemed to mostly enjoy it but is still hesitant to fully engage. There are a number of things about the set up of the whole thing that I think could easily be tweaked to increase kiddo comfort.

Following soccer for all three girls, the attention turned to party time! Terah along with 21 others who love her dearly celebrated together last evening over a meal of all her favorite foods - though she mostly just ate the boxed macaroni and cheese - and a birthday egg hunt and some pin the tail or bow on the bunny. She was still going strong after 9 p.m. Her mother was not! She seemed to feel loved and celebrated, so I'd say her 4th birthday was a success! Currently, as I write this blog, she is enjoying her new sticker activity books from her aunts!
P.s. And, in case anyone is wondering, the piglets are still cute! 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

30 days hath September...

I managed to keep the number of pictures on this post to exactly 30...Had I gotten to blogging a few days ago, this post would likely be split into several but here I am to wrap up September with a smattering of notables, allowing October to take over. I've given up on sleep for the night and will be quite tired today. I've got a child on my lap: Terah has spent most of the night coughing - just a tickly annoying cough that I cannot manage to sleep through!! Jason has spent this week sleeping on the couch due to his cough. I keep thinking, and then being wrong, that we are about out of the woods on this string of viruses...Sigh! So right now the day is still cool but we are to hit 90 degrees today. And then fall comes! Tomorrow's high is 70 and it won't be much above that in the foreseeable future. I'm eager!

So here's a recap to the last week or so of September. An alternate title of this post could easily have been, "the gifts of this season."

Our black beans are harvested, threshed, winnowed and drying in pans before we put them in storage. We grow beans with potatoes and it has proved to be a mutually beneficial relationship. They look great and Jason estimates somewhere around 80 pounds. We have finally been able to grow enough beans for our year!! Last year all the rain made many of them sprout/mold in the field and this year it has been so dry which made for great conditions for bean harvesting! We won't have to spend evening after evening this year sorting trays of beans! 
As I go about my days on the farm, I'm pretty much always looking for an excuse to take a spin by the piglets. I eagerly offer to do the evening feeding or take them sweet potato vines or any other task that takes me in that general direction. Who wouldn't want to swing by to see these cute gals! They are 2 1/2 weeks old and getting rather spunky! They chase each other around and run circles around their house. They are starting to use their tiny snouts to root around and follow their mama's lead to much on a sweet potato leaf or two. And they are vigorous nursers, never settling on the same teat for more than about 15 seconds. I have learned that the sow makes a very distinct pattern of grunts when her milk lets down. I was tickled when I figured this out!
September was my month to choose our family outing. While it may not have my first choice, the summer reading program coupons almost all expire at the end of September so that shaped our outing - the almost annual trip to the Luray Rescue Zoo formed the basis for our family time. As some might remember, this is the zoo where we donated our two goats, Cookie Dough and Oreo. As you can see pictured here, Cookie Dough is still there and going strong. Sadly, he has made a name for himself as a bit of a bully of a goat and one day when guests were there feeding the goats, he nailed Oreo so hard in the side trying to fight for food that he killed him on the spot. Not a pleasant story but that was what we learned upon arrival when we asked the owner if they were still there. He didn't mince his words and so told of Cookie Dough's behaviors rather dramatically such that Terah was afraid of him, understandably, even before we got to the petting zoo area.

My favorite part of the day was our time at Storybook Trail on the way home. With the leaves falling and the birds soaring over the look out, the song based off a Wendell Berry poem was running through my mind and heart: And when I rise. Let me rise up. Like a bird. Joyfully. And when I fall. Let me fall down. Like a leaf. Without regret. We were introduced to this trail by Samuel and Margaret and now in many ways it feels like "Samuel's trail" to me when I'm there, knowing it was one of the last outings he was able to enjoy with his family before his death.
We kicked off our birthday weekend with a big day of chicken butchering and grape juice making. Jason was assuming he would be butchering alone but he definitely had one little side kick for a good part of the day. She is now pulling her own weight in the feather plucking category! When given the option at various points that day to help with grapes or butchering chickens, she pretty much always wanted to go join her daddy. She came in with a great need for a good washing up.

I was very happy to be on for juice making. I know I say this every year, but is there anything more amazing that putting grapes in a steamer and having it turn into the most beautiful purple juice! With neighbors and friends, we netted over 75 quarts of what I often coin "liquid gold!"
And then it was time to clean up the sticky counters and floors and get ready to celebrate the parents in this household turning 41/43! I ended up getting up really early on my birthday morning to do more of what I've been doing a lot of these days - chopping things!!! I & M were over for a sleepover and so we all gathered for a birthday breakfast before dispersing! I made my own cake - the first chocolate persimmon muffins of the year with our homegrown and ground buckwheat and barley flours. I felt a little bit like Jack in the book "Pancakes, Pancakes" as I ground the buckwheat that morning and then the barley and then pulled out the recently harvested persimmons... I was moving pretty fast to get breakfast done in several hours and I didn't have to do nearly all the steps chronicled in that book. I'm pretty sure Jack was not actually eating that pancake on the same day that he started harvesting the grain, threshing it out, taking it to the miller, milking the cow, churning the butter, etc... But it makes a good point. The breakfast was well worth waiting for and working for! We are still bringing in a quart or two of fresh raspberries every other day and enough summer squash to eat at every meal plus some to share and then the dregs of the tomatoes are still tasty when mixed and cooked down with shallots!
We could not linger at the table as Terah was finally going to get to do her first day of minikickers. My birthday treat was sending Jason and the girls off to soccer and staying home to water seedlings, do the day's harvests, gather sweet potato greens for the pigs and let chickens run. That all was done in time for me to also enjoy a shower and some journaling time alone! Happy birthday to me! As it turned out, Terah made it through about 1.5 activities in minikickers before the game of tag scared her and she spent the remainder of the time watching from the safety of her daddy's lap! She had fully recovered by the time they returned home from Alida's game so we'll see how the next time goes. Kali missed her soccer game that day due to a "fully company work day" for the play where they were working on costumes and building set!
Between soccer and Ivy's birthday party, we got some of our sweet potato harvests out of the curing room and into the root cellar, weighing as we went! It's not pictured here, as we were moving kind of fast, but Jason, Terah and I formed a little assembly line as we put some in first use, some for seed potatoes and the rest in large boxes/bins for eating. Terah sticks to tasks like this in an amazing way and seemed to love being right in the middle of the action. Her arms were tired though when it was time to head off to the party!

Jason and I got in a little dose of partying before heading off for our evening double date with friends, J & G. What a fun, celebratory evening. We enjoyed pizzas at Bella Luna and then walked to the JMU Forbes Center to hear Ranky Tanky. What incredible musicians - their songs have been playing through my mind ever since! It was a late night for these 40+ year olds, but well worth it! And the kids were enjoying a birthday sleepover at Ivy's so we were able to come home and crash with no additional kiddo responsibilities. Happy birthday to us!

The next morning we squeezed in a hike to Hensley's Pond with coffee and leftover persimmon muffins before doing chores and joining all the Benners who were in town for brunch. I know both Jason and I could have been happy to sit there by the pond for a few hours rather than just a few minutes, but we were also glad for a bit more family time before their departure! We then culminated our birthday weekend by having dinner with friends that evening at Tangly Woods - I made shepherd's pie with the first use potatoes from our recent harvest. Sadly, I'm not sure Jason could really fully enjoy it due to his cold. Overall, a very full but good weekend in which I managed to avoid all work-related tasks other than maybe 30 minutes total between the two days!
So, I've managed to lay Terah down and she has gone about 3 minutes without coughing. It's light out now and my mind is starting to whirl with the tasks for today! So I'll close with a few harvest related updates - all fruity ones!

Persimmons: what amazing little fruits! Every morning we have been able to fill this strainer full of fruit that have fallen since the day before. We pick them up first thing before the chickens run, as they are also fans. That has added up to nearly a quart a day of thick sweet persimmon puree for muffins, smoothies, eating fresh, etc... I just tried making some of it into popsicles last night so we'll see if that is a hit! The tree is still loaded with more fruit, so there may be more experimenting in my future. I'm thinking persimmon fruit leather may be on the docket!

Chinese dates: I've waited for this for over 16 years now! When we moved from our first apartment on Hamlet Dr, we dug up a sapling from the base of the large Chinese date tree that was over our front walk. I was pregnant with Kali at the time and we took that little sapling to our first home on Wolfe St where we planted it as Kali's tree at a baby blessing we hosted at our home. When we moved to Fruit Farm Lane, we dug it up and brought it with us planting it in the bed above our front walk. The hope was that some day it would bear fruit and drop its fruit on our walk, just as it had done on Hamlet Dr. This is that year!!
Kiwi: And, finally, I cannot forget to sing the praises of these little fruits. Please remember that looks can be deceiving! We have waited for years for the male and female kiwi plants to get their act together, and the timing worked this year and we are savoring hundreds of these tiny flavor packed morsels! And since we are out of freezer space and we can only eat so much fruit fresh each day, I decided to try drying them. It worked great and they are pretty cute! So there may be more slicing tiny fruits in half in my future before the season comes to a close! It's well worth the time. But for now, it's time to get to canning chicken broth. I think as long as I keep moving I can stay awake! The coughing has started up again so we'll see how long before Terah gives up on sleep too...