Sunday, July 23, 2017

A different kind of week coming up...

So within the next hour or so we'll be saying goodbye to our two eldest daughters for the week. It's time for their annual trek to the Mountain House for a fun week with Grandma and Grandpa and two of their cousins. The excitement is palpable in our home and the table is loaded with the things they plan to cart along with them! Right now all three girls have headed out to see Buttercup one more time. I'm so relieved to report that as of right now she is eating again and seeming more normal, at least from Kali's regular and detailed reports. Kali stooped as low as spending a long time at my computer the other day "cheating!" She considers googling things cheating but she was not above doing that when desperate to find some cure for her dearly beloved pet. I think that google search had her putting vinegar in Buttercup's water. Who knows what has helped, but I'm glad she is heading off for a fun week without too much worry on her mind. I imagine she will ask about Buttercup first on all our phone calls! She admitted to me today that if Buttercup had not show any improvement she was uncertain whether she was going to have been able to leave her. So glad she won't miss out on the fun week ahead!

Recent days have been much of the same - harvesting, chopping, canning, freezing, nursing, changing diapers, making food, feeding kiddos, fitting in office work in all the cracks, etc... But a few things spiced up life some. A very minor cold seems to be making its way through the family, landing most heavily on our littlest (who sleeps horribly if anything disrupts her equilibrium)! So she was already contending with some new 2 year old molars and this cold made it such that she and I have had a few "rough" nights again - and not sure how I did it for weeks straight in earlier months. Eager to clock in more hours in a row again! In the meantime, we are freezing lots of beans, canning pickles every few days, and watching eagerly for the first tomatoes to ripen. The first Sweet Norita is sitting on the counter - uncertain if we'll let ourselves eat it or save the first one for seed...

We also enjoyed a short but sweet visit from my cousin, his wife and their two children. They had never come to our place before and so it was fun to show them around, have the kids get time together (long enough to be warming up by the end!), and we even had the excitement of a big storm rolling through taking out our power right before I was about to make dinner. Thankfully the propane burner is all set up on the front walk for canning so we just moved it onto the porch and fried up our green bean, cheese, rice, eggs and herb patties outside!

Terah's enjoying either wearing lots of clothes she picks out from her drawers or none. We are finding when she wears none that she seems more or less potty trained (without us having done any training). She still doesn't have the seasons quite right as she'll want fuzzy socks and slippers when the rest of us are sweating. She loves whenever daddy is working out on the concrete pad - threshing seems to be especially intriguing as she will never want to come in with me if he is out there working. I still stand by the fact that Jason is one "hard workin' daddy" and like that all our girls are very interested in what's he's into around the place!

The girls and I finally got around to meandering down the lane to weed around the free little library the other night. We did some rearranging and adding new titles, removed the proselytizing literature someone had dumped in there (grr) and enjoyed seeing that there has definitely been some use of it. Fun!

And then today's fun has been MORE applesauce. Some neighbor friends let us know yesterday that they had a tree dropping apples that they weren't going to use. We are such suckers for that kind of thing. :) So we had fun going over and collecting about two bushels that Jason and I did up today - with bits of help from the two older girls. It was only about half of what Mom and I did the other day, but was still well worth doing and fun for Jason and I to be side by side at the sink for at least a little stint of working together!

To close I'll just mention one (very small) thing that I'm getting kicks out of recently and that has changed the kitchen flow for me (in a great way). I have discovered how handy it is to have a "pig slop bucket" under the table in the kitchen! I'm putting cheese whey in there and all our kitchen scraps that they will enjoy. When it's full, we take it to the shed for whenever they need another feeding. It's really fun, it doesn't smell at all, and it saves me trips to the compost and the shed. I'm pleased!
 Ok, time to focus on some hugs and goodbyes! It's going to be different around here!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A 15 minute catch up post!

It's the time of year where too much happens in a short amount of time for me to keep up with and the time to blog about our full days is non-existent. So the canner is about to boil with one load of dilly beans and when it is done it's time for bed! So we'll do what I can in that time and then call it good enough! I will lay my perfectionist tendencies to rest on this one!
We had a night recently where I was showered, Alida's hair was clean and dry and it was not yet 9 p.m. I floated the idea of a hair cut and she pondered it for a bit and was ready to chop it all off. A quick measure showed that she'd have enough to donate 10 inches again and still have a little left!
Terah was pretty interested in what was going on and climbed on the chair when Alida was done. I didn't cut hers! But once again it was clear that a short cut suits Alida great! She was extra bouncy for the hour after it was cut and our relationship has been bearing the fruits of not suffering through hair brushing sessions!

She's pretty cute! She is getting lots of compliments and I'm feeling grateful for her curls which made my very elementary level hair cutting skills shine!
Thankfully she didn't change her mind and happily took it into the post office with me to mail it off!

This week we enjoyed a last gathering with our neighbors before they move. While we don't get together regularly, they have been amazing neighbors and very helpful to us at some pretty crucial points in our time on Fruit Farm Lane - a place for Kali during our time with Nora and more recently helping out with counsel and assistance with Terah's various injuries. 

We treated them to one of our favorite new discoveries - chocolate mousse made with just homemade ricotta, cocoa powder and maple syrup (a little cream if you want it even smoother!). Jason says it's like chocolate ice cream only better because it's not very cold.
We are in a hot spell right now and very much enjoyed a family night at a friend's pool recently. We took a picnic to eat at the pool side and enjoyed cooling off and playing together in the water!

Towards the end of the evening Jason went with N to look over her fruit trees and came back to report that there was a tree with ripe apples that they didn't plan to use. So we came home with bags and bags of apples - the next day was planned!

Mom chopped and chopped and chopped apples while I monitored the canner, cranked sauce, took care of kids and monitored them helping with the sauce project, feeding hungry people, getting loads in and out of the canner, etc... We did over 70 quarts of sauce by night fall!

Here's one of my helpers!

Another duo of helpers - sometimes staying out of mommy's hair is the most helpful thing to be done!

Aunt K joined for game playing and applesauce testing.

Only one of us got a pick me up nap midday!

And then she was ready to help (a quick update on her - if she is without a diaper she will run to her little potty when she needs to go, do her thing and then we'll hear her shout "wipe me." It's adorable!). 

Every other day right now processing a mess of green beans!

Onions are now out of the ground and the nicest we have ever grown. 

We finally took to heart that more is not always better. Cut our onion growing space to about a 1/3 last year's patch and were able to tend it better. It worked!

The other evening in our home. What a sweet sight!

Last night we met a new little friend! A third baby for good friends of ours - they welcomed a baby daughter and she has two proud big brothers. Our girls enjoyed adoring her!

It's always hard to remember how tiny they are to start - but she looks like she will have a good appetite as soon as she gets out of her sleepy newborn state!

This picture says so much - Terah getting her cues from Kali. Kali is worried so much these days about Buttercup. Her pet chicken is probably 6 plus years old - very old for a chicken. She seems to be showing some signs of illness..
Ok, timer just rang, cans of beans out cooling on the porch, baby falling apart in my arms. I won't even proof read this. Sigh...

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Family retreat day!

Towards the end of 2016 we laid out a plan for our family nights, outings and retreat days for 2017. It was, as seems to be a common tendency with our family, a tad more complicated than 2016's plan. Kali determined yesterday that maybe we should simplify it for 2018. I was supportive of that idea, as the one who tries to keep track of and implement this crazy family's cooked up plans! In short it didn't sound too bad - we plan a quarterly family night together, each above 2 years of age member of the family plans one family outing in the year (so we have one quarterly) and one family retreat day (so one of those quarterly also). So we do one "special" thing monthly - either a family night, an outing or a retreat day. Sounds easy right? Well then you get into who wants which months, and if we do an outing or a retreat day or a family night in that month, and it starts to get a more complicated. That said, we have had a lot of fun and special times together this year so regardless of how we plan them into our year, we will definitely continue them! It happened that Kali's retreat was yesterday and it will be a hard one to top! 

After the last family retreat day, in which we tried to do way too much, I was determined for this one to have more of the retreat aspects of the day. Kali and I worked together on a plan and then trimmed it down a bit and it worked! We woke the girls bright and early and by shortly after 7:30 we were on our way to the blueberry patch. We were there to glean "blueberry matter" for syrup. The berries in the back patch are now mostly soft due to a small but mighty fruit fly, the spotted wing drosophila. But soft berries make grand jam or syrup so we picked as fast as we could and got 4 or so gallons of berries that were soon cooking down our stove. I love being in a berry patch in the early morning and the older 3 in the family had to more or less close our eyes and walk out of the patch or we would have kept picking for awhile. The 2 younger were ready for move on to the next thing (you will see that theme later in the day as well). 
When we got back home, Kali and Jason headed out to do duck chores together (an attempt to have Jason help Kali streamline/shorten her process). Mom and Dad had arrived the day before and Dad graciously offered to do chicken and pig chores for Jason, which freed up an extra hour or so of Jason's time in the day. Of course the 2 younger gals quickly gravitated towards a morning visit upstairs. I got the berries washed and cooking and our brunch started and then went up to check on them. I think it was the most precious moment of my day - I love, love, love that our girls get this kind of time with my folks on a regular basis. They were both soaking up some morning reading and snuggle time!

Mom came down with us for a momentous occasion- she had brought my Grandma Bucher's cottage cheese bag along and I was eager to use it. It's so fun to be doing a process that she did, that I didn't get to ever learn from her, but that now makes me think of her whenever I made it (which right now is about every 2 days!). I got as far as taking this picture and seconds later the age of the bag showed when it burst in the middle. To be honest, no disappointment here. It was fun to try it, and I knew that I liked my current system of using a thin mesh strainer better anyway, so maybe it is good it broke so I didn't feel compelled to use it. :)

While the cottage cheese drained, I got working on our nutty sweet potato waffles. This time they were made with our sorghum flour and then some cultured buttermilk - it was a hit! There were a few leftovers that are quickly disappearing as family members wake and get some breakfast before getting into their day. When I was setting brunch on the table, it didn't necessarily feel all that remarkable, but then again there were so many little components that were special: the steaming mugs of coffee with freshly skimmed cream, the homemade pecan butter made with our soaked dehydrated pecans, the fresh blueberry jam from berries gleaned next door, the hot cooked blueberries from our morning family berry picking excursion, the fresh cottage cheese just salted and fresh cream added, wineberry banana yogurt smoothie from the evening before's wineberry picking family fun, and of course the aforementioned nutty sweet potato waffles with the end of last year's sweet potato harvest. It was delicious! 
With our bellies full, we packed up water and a few essentials and headed out for a midday hike. You might wonder about the wisdom of such a plan on an almost 90 degree day. But my how shade transforms a space in mid-summer. We took the first mountain entrance and were soon under the canopy of trees. The plan was for us to take turns choosing what direction to go at each fork in the trail. The youngest was soon sacked out on my back so didn't get to make any of those decisions and Alida wanted to make the 6th and the 9th decision. We worked it out and had a fun explore through the woods until right at the 9th fork in the road we found ourselves back almost to where we had started. Terah had just woken and Alida was on the verge of beginning to complain about how she couldn't walk another step. So we decided to go with her mischievous grin as she pointed left, which meant towards home. It took a few minutes for it to compute in Kali's mind where we were and what Alida was up to. I know Kali would have hiked a lot longer and on our walk home Jason and I quietly cooked up a future dream of a mini-trip where we go for an overnight hiking/camping trip just with Kali. She would have gone for hours on the mountain and is often so gracious and accommodating to the younger members of our family! I think it would be so much fun sometime to have a day stretched out in front of us where we could just let Kali lead us for hours. She would love it, as would we - but I think we are a few years out from being able to enjoy that as a family of 5!

Ending our hike early meant that it was just 2:30 p.m. when we got back and the afternoon/evening stretched out luxuriously in front of us and Terah had already had her nap. So Kali and I got busy making the wineberry jam with some of the berries from the night before and I started canning blueberry syrup. Jason got the propane burner set up on the front walk and in the next few hours we got 4 rounds through the canner! Jason got the badminton net set back up (had taken it down pre-wedding) and the younger girls played outside, and gave Terah's baby doll a bath. We then even managed as a family to "save all the whales" in our game before we moved outside for the rest of the evening!
 Mom and Dad joined us for a fun evening of swinging at the swingset, playing badminton, enjoying an outdoor fire and making pizza pockets for our dinner. Terah is getting to be a bit more of a nix nux around the fire so took a bit more monitoring. She now wants to also throw bark and sticks into the fire just like her big sister! I think the early morning and short nap was also starting to show for her, and the early morning and hike was beginning to show on Alida. So we didn't linger around the fire as night fell, but got the ducks and chickens put to bed and then polished off our homemade peppermint patty chocolate bark before getting ready for bed. We all gathered in our bedroom for some James Herriott (which we all thoroughly enjoyed and I didn't hear the end of). A good day!